MARK NEAL – Cool Waters (Eh Records EHCD08)

Cool WatersMark Neal is a singer/songwriter/musician/producer and all-round clever chap from the banks of the Clyde near Loch Lomond. He works in a duo with Eilidh Steel and with folk-rock band, Teannaich but his new solo album, Cool Waters, is exactly that with Mark writing, playing and singing every note, producing, recording and mixing. The songwriting mostly stems from the landscape around his home and is built around Mark’s acoustic guitar but is neither traditional folk nor full blown folk-rock, although it comes close here and there.

The album opens with the title track and a delightful acoustic guitar riff of which I could have listened to a lot more. The song itself is a rather rosy-tinted view of the landscape around Mark’s home. I suspect a better description of the Clyde, even at this time of year, would be “bloody freezing” but the song does set the scene for the rest of the record. ‘Set In Stone’ is a dynamic song of separation or more likely a permanent breakdown of a relationship. There is a deep bitterness here. He takes a more sympathetic view of a similar situation in ‘More Than You Can See’.

Mark is still unhappy on ‘Be There’ but hides it behind a tasty acoustic guitar solo and then disappears into a reverie with ‘The Short Light Of Winter’, a solo guitar instrumental. Love, pain and broken hearts are addressed again in ‘Fire Burn On Water’ and here he approaches rock – I sort of wish that he’d really cut loose just once – with what could be a radio hit when it is released as a single in September. Like sunshine after a thunderstorm, the bouncy ‘Don’t Stop’ features percussion and ukulele decorated with whistle and segues seamlessly into ‘Move On’ with a nicely heavy arrangement.

It’s back to finger-picked acoustic guitar with ‘Time To Seek’, another song clearly inspired by the countryside and topped off with a flute solo before he immerses himself in the landscape and returns to where he started with ‘The Lost Forest’. Cool Waters isn’t an album that gives itself up to a casual listen and you have to afford it the attention it deserves. It will repay your efforts.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘Cool Waters’ – official video:

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