There they are: the familiar ringing guitar, the unmistakeable melodic cadences. The last Dougie MacLean album I got was his 40th anniversary concert set, Till Tomorrow, and I wonder if that day has arrived in the form of his latest CD. Perhaps not: the songs are a mixture of great optimism and almost apocalyptic pessimism. Recorded at the Butterstone studio, New Tomorrow features guest appearances by Davie Duncan and Matheu Watson but the bulk of the backing is provided by producer and multi-instrumentalist Jamie MacLean who also co-wrote several tracks and happens to be Dougie’s son.
The opening title track paints the happiest picture. It’s dedicated to Dougie’s grandsons and basically says: “Hello. I hope I’ll get to watch you grow and teach you a few things” but that depends on times to come. The second track, ‘Garden Wall’ takes an opposite view; looking back with regret at the dashed hopes of youth and seeking that utopia over the wall. I particularly like ‘Shadow Of The Mountain’. It has a certain “sod it” motif – the world may have gone to pot but I’m still here and I can afford to get drunk.
In the middle of the set are three songs: ‘Demetrius’, ‘Thunderbolt’ (a country-tinged rocker) and ‘Wild And Windy Night’ which are rather more elusive but then we’re back to the gloom with ‘Never Enough’ which, along with ‘Wisp Of A Whisper’, is full of disappointments. The recurring images of storms, of mountains, of being lost but also of hope for a better future, run through the record.
If I’ve made New Tomorrow sound terribly dour that wasn’t my intention. It’s the curse of the reviewer to always pick at the meanings of songs. The album is a very good listen from start to finish and the arrangements are excellent and varied, while always keeping Dougie’s voice and guitar front and centre.
Artist’s website: https://www.dougiemaclean.com/
‘Wild And Windy Night’ – live: