LUTHRIE LOCKDOWN – Stronger Than Before (LL22001CD)

Stronger Than BeforeThis is just great. Luthrie Lockdown released Stronger Than Before on June 6th.  The title is from the song ‘Stronger’:

I may be broken in a thousand ways
But I will heal
Hear me say
I may be broken in a thousand ways
I’ll mend
Stronger than before

The band is – loosely – from Scotland; the album is from that long tradition which draws on an eccentric well of genius and humour to make thoughtful points – the lines from ‘Stronger’ for instance may feel like a description of post-lockdown but were actually written with women in Edinburgh prison, describing “their fears of leaving … and their determination to rise above them”. The songs are written by Colin McEwan, begun in the summer of 2020 and build on his life experiences – from driving Glasgow buses to community arts.

McEwan plays guitar and mandolin. Yvonne McLeod plays accordion. This is a bit like saying Flanders and Swann sing and play piano, or that John Otway and Loudon Wainwright III play guitar. It gives no sense of the skill, simplicity and delicacy of these songs.

The creative process for the album is described thus: McEwan using notation software to get the tunes out of his head and McLeod setting out the arrangements “like being handed a box of crayons, adding colour and tone to pencil drawings, then setting the pieces in a frame”.  The band is completed by Martin Dibbs on drums and percussion and Pete Harvey on cello and bass. Songs and arrangement alike are sophisticatedly simple.

Of multiple favourites from the album, I think the track I like most is ‘Nobody’s Whistling’ with its take on the building trade and an inclusion of subtle (ish) reference to Pete Seeger – ticky tacky boxes which are made by the modern building trade – and rounded with the modern refrain of “barely a tradesman to be found”.

The version in the video below is only guitar, accordion – and wind whistling in the shrubs – but gives a great sense of how Luthrie Lockdown are playing songs of everyday life. It’s listenable and singable and has themes which are bang up to date, which puts this album at the heart of modern folk music.

That there is an element of delightful bonkersness allied to lyrical perceptiveness only adds to its appeal.

Stronger Than Before is a gem.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website:

‘Nobody’s Whistling’ – live in lockdown:

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