CANYONS & HIGHLANDS – Canyons & Highlands (BDR 2201)

Canyons & Highlands“Astral Folk”. What a simultaneously vague, uncertain – and absolutely brilliant description for this album.

Canyons & Highlands (the album) is an instantly accessible delight. Mid-Atlantic? Transatlantic? Like “astral folk”, both are descriptions, equally vague and equally clear to give a sense of the genre for this album and the smooth, easy playing of Canyons & Highlands (the band).

Sometimes you just have to tell the story of the album, so here goes: all songs were written and initially played and sung by Norrie McCulloch in his VW Campervan in rural Stirlingshire. There’s an intimacy to the album’s feel which may well have come from this intriguing beginning.

The songs were developed throughout various lockdown phases and McCulloch’s partner (an NHS nurse) was working shifts in a Glasgow hospital. Not wishing to disturb her, he tried recording in the van, “Being all set up parked out on the driveway in the small, enclosed space within the campervan felt like I was getting a separate space to work outwith the house which really helped to focus on the songs – and to top it off it sounded great playing in there.”  Words from old postcards picked up in the USA were blended with first version lyrics, musicians from America added their parts, the album was mastered in upstate New York.

It will be released on September 2nd and, despite being an album created by an Atlantic Ocean of separateness (literally), it retains the intimacy of a man playing acoustic guitar in a VW Campervan – the album pulling together as a melodic, gentle whole in which the individual songs coalesce into an overall atmosphere. ‘Astral folk’ defies definition, it’s better sensed than defined; it’s best seen as more of a mood, a feel, a perception than as a scientific, musicological or dictionary explanation.

You only have to look at the artwork on the cover or read the lyric from, say, the track ‘Zodiac’, “Every song tells us something about love”. Better still, let your mind float while you listen to ‘Hurry Up Angel’ below.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website:

‘Hurry Up Angel’: