FINDLAY NAPIER – Glasgow (Cheerygroove Records, Cheery006)

GlasgowA sense of place is a wondrous, nebulous thing; it’s very personal and can be tricky to evoke meaningfully. Findlay Napier’s homage to his own Glasgow (there must be a clue in the name…) succeeds in bringing alive a sense of the diverse aspects of the city. Snippets of on-location audio in between songs give a vivid impression of walking the streets, eavesdropping on other lives.

Our auditory tour bus sets off from the Necropolis, to a funereal toll of bells, where teen Satanists sweetly fail to summon up demons in ‘Young Goths In The Necropolis’. Hanging out a little while longer in the graveyard, we meet the patron saint of gravediggers in ‘St. Anthony’s Digging A Hole’. These songs, along with the simmering anger of ‘There’s More To Building Ships’ (a stunning song written for the Shake The Chains project, and happily reprised here), are all written by Napier, his solo songwriting characterised by a slight edge, a rumbling abrasive humour.

The songs co-written with the prolific Hewerdine feel somewhat more lyrical, but still have that tart bite of dark humour. The bleak, heartfelt ‘Wire Burners’, a tale of homeless scrap-metal collectors is warmed by a loping blues. A fuzzily nostalgic glow surrounds ‘The Locarno, Sauchiehall St 1928’, offsetting its bittersweet tale of dancehalls and disappointment. ‘The Blue Lagoon’ hints at old school crooners, whilst telling of “unrequited love in a Glasgow chip shop”. It must also be one of the most lushly ornamented songs on an otherwise leanly arranged album. Napier’s vocals and guitar are supplemented only by Hewerdine on guitar/piano and Donna Maciocia’s backing vocals.

Of the sensitively chosen covers, ‘Marchtown’ is a kind of psychogeographic timeslip, whilst the boisterous ‘Glasgow’ celebrates the serious “party town” in all its incarnations. This is continued in the deliberate and proud Scots dialect of ‘Cod Liver Oil And The Orange Juice’ sung in lusty homage to Hamish Imlach. By contrast, a Blue Nile song, ‘A Walk Across The Rooftops’ expresses a relaxed joyfulness, as does Michael Marra’s deliciously surreal ‘King Kong’s Visit To Glasgow’.

The gorgeous cover art deserves a mention, too. The bubblegum pink of images and typography, the ragamuffin kids and the red sandstone blocks sum up this album’s refusal to sentimentalise its subject, whilst allowing warmth, affection and humour to show through loud and clear.

Su O’Brien

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the FINDLAY NAPIER – Glasgow link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

ORDER – [CD]

Artist website: www.findlaynapier.com

‘Young Goths In The Necropolis’ – live:

Findlay Napier announces his new album, Glasgow

Findlay Napier

Following huge acclaim for his 2015 solo debut VIP: Very Interesting Persons, Scotland’s Findlay Napier again unites superb songwriting, magpie-minded imagination and compellingly vivid vocals on his new album Glasgow. A characteristically wry yet lyrical, offbeat yet heartfelt paean to his adopted home town – marking 20 years since Napier arrived from his Highland birthplace – it features freshly-penned, instantly memorable originals alongside classic and contemporary gems from the city’s rich ballad canon. Continuing their fruitful collaboration on VIP, revered UK songsmith Boo Hewerdine reprises his roles as producer and co-writer.

From modern-day vignettes like opener ‘Young Goths In The Necropolis’ – its bittersweet emotional charge evoking a Caledonian Loudon Wainwright – to the tenderly imagined love-story of ‘The Locarno, Sauchiehall St 1928’, reminiscent of the late great Michael Marra (whose wonderfully whimsical ‘King Kong’s Visit to Glasgow’ is also covered), the album’s musical map spans shipyards and late-night chippies, wily street veterans and warring football fans, patron saints and musical icons.

Other covers include a terrifically gallus (Scots for ‘bold, mischievous, cheeky’ – ie quintessentially Glaswegian) version of Hamish Imlach’s ‘Cod Liver Oil And The Orange Juice’; a dreamily ardent rendering of The Blue Nile’s ‘A Walk Across The Rooftops’, and a gorgeous new ballad, ‘Marchtown’, by ex-Delgado Emma Pollock.

With accompaniment mostly distilled to artful acoustic guitar, plus occasional piano and Donna Maciocia’s delicate backing vocals, Napier’s remarkable voice – by turns burly, gritty, fierce and forlorn, bitingly acerbic and exquisitely nuanced – is rightfully foregrounded throughout, capturing scenes and characters as potently as the CD cover image by Pulitzer Prize-winning Magnum photographer Raymond Depardon.

Napier’s fast-growing stature as one of the UK’s most distinctively gifted contemporary folk artists builds on his previous band work with Back Of The Moon and The Bar Room Mountaineers, also reflecting his long-time immersion in the vibrant stylistic melting-pot of Glasgow’s world-famous music scene. As promoter of the decade-old Hazy Recollections concert series and founder of the Glasgow Songwriting Festival, he’s been particularly influential in fostering cross-fertilisation between the city’s folk and indie communities. Spring 2017 saw him touring with acclaimed contemporary protest-song showcase Shake the Chains, whose September album release is followed by more dates early next year.

While the sorrow and anger simmering through Glasgow track ‘There’s More To Building Ships’ (originally written for Shake the Chains) highlight Napier’s political leanings, humour is an equally vital element in his work, both recorded and live – as reflected in his recent sideline career as a stand-up comedic. Hence his readiness to embrace not only the oft-disparaged label of folk singer, but also another, likewise timeless role:

“I do love that old-fashioned, all-round idea of an ‘entertainer’,” he says. “But then that’s totally what the best folk singers are; they’ll have you in absolute hysterics, in between punching you in the gut – people like Loudon Wainwright, John Prine, Michael Marra: that’s the absolute pinnacle, as far as I’m concerned.”

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the Findlay Napier – Glasgow link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

ORDER – [CD]

Artist’s website: www.findlaynapier.com

‘Cod Liver Oil And The Orange Juice’ live: