INNES WATSON’S GUITAR COLLOQUIUM – Guitar Colloquium (ISLE Music Scotland ISLE06)

Guitar ColloquiumI’m a little late with this one, for various reasons: Innes Watson’s CD Innes Watson’s Guitar Colloquium was due to be released on the 13th January 2019. However, now I’ve finally caught up with it, it’s too good not to review. Innes Watson is a multi-instrumentalist from Glasgow. It tells us on his website that he’s “A composer of fiddle tunes, string arrangements, guitar music, songs and much more“, and those talents are well displayed on this CD. He’s supported on this set of instrumentals by a variety of other guitarists playing acoustic, electric, tenor, electric tenor and bass guitars, as well as two drummers, two fiddle players, and a cello player, all well-known on the Scottish contemporary music scene.

Here’s the track list – all titles are credited to Innes Watson except as specified below.

  1. ‘Prelude For Sandy’ arranges the heck out of a simple chord sequence.
  2. ‘Doo Da’ is based around a sprightly tune with a structural resemblance to ‘The Little Beggarman’: coincidental, no doubt, since the explanation for the title in the notes makes no reference to Auld Johnny Doo. Nice instrumental harmonies and a tasty acoustic guitar break.
  3. ‘Feds’ (traditional arranged by Jack Evans and Innes Watson) is a variation on a tune often called ‘Waiting For The Federals’ (among many other names, including ‘Seneca Square Dance’). It’s not very danceable in this form, but it is very listenable, moving from a repetitive first section to a more literal but relaxed reading of a tune, to a slower, jazzy electric guitar noodle, and back down the list. Very nice.
  4. ‘Mando Endo’ is described in the notes as “a slow air subjected to the mandolin“, though I don’t hear anything recognizable as a mandolin here. I do hear some very nice Celtic-ish guitar, however, which seques abruptly into the next track.
  5. ‘Udon Noodle’ is altogether funkier. A noodle it may be, but it’s suitably nourishing to the ears.
  6. ‘Stubbs’ apparently takes its name from Stubbington in the South of England, but combines some funky riffing with a tune that would be quite at home in a ceilidh. It even got close to getting me dancing, even though I realized long ago that I perform better in the band than on the dance floor.
  7. ‘Waste Not’ starts with a jazzy chord sequence and then evolves into a guitar-dominated minor theme that segues into the next track.
  8. ‘Waste’ is, by contrast, a brisk piece that nevertheless echoes the previous track in places.
  9. ‘Misty The Cat’ (Paul Jennings, arranged by Innes Watson) starts with Celtic-ish guitar but picks up other instruments as it goes. Fun.
  10. ‘For Queen Nell’ is an intriguing tune: I particularly like the way the counterpoint bass and the distorted electric guitar on the playout.
  11. ‘Wee Dafty’ is described in the sleeve notes as “my attempt at writing a filthy chic hornpipe…” I have to say that the explanations of how the titles came about on this record are almost as entertaining as the tunes themselves. It takes a while to get to the hornpipe section, but it’s worth waiting for. Perhaps it’s as well that no words made it to this cut, though.
  12. ‘Roger’ is an attractive, deceptively simple piece apparently named for Roger Bucknall of Fylde Guitars.
  13. Fiddles and cello add depth to the guitars in the gently flowing ‘Cowboy & The Pussycat’.
  14. ‘Glasgow Guitar Colloquium’ (Innes Watson, arranged by Andrea Gobbi, Barry Reid, Innes Watson) features pretty much the whole band making whoopee over a repetitive riff, building up to some hysterical fiddlework. I have to admit that I had almost as much fun listening as they seemed to have recording it.

This is a hard album to classify. It has elements of folk and even folk-rock; some pieces are decidedly jazzy and even have elements of jazz-funk, though most of it seems closely and carefully arranged rather than improvisational. But who says it needs to be classified anyway? There is a great deal of flawlessly played and beautifully orchestrated guitar that transcends musical barriers, with solid support from a group of very sound musicians, and I think it will appeal to many people as much as it does me. And I like it very much.

David Harley

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