A familiar figure on the folk scene around Inverness, there is, to say the least, very little info on Macfadyen out there in internet land, but, while Dreamers And Journeys is only his second album, I’d suspect he’s been doing the rounds for a few years.
Predominantly self-penned, the songs revolve around the theme of the album title, some based on real-life injustices, others rooted in experiences of his travels, accompanied here by Rachel Campbell on fiddle and vocals, accordionist Ed Sloggie, Alan Macfadyen on bass, Dave McIntosh on drums and producer Steve Bull behind the piano.
It opens with the unequivocal observation that ‘Life’s A Journey’, a frisky fiddle-and guitar led little number essentially about relationships pass that reveals him to possess a light vocal with a clear but soft accent. It kind of leads naturally into ‘Living Your Life In One Day’, a slow waltz about not overdoing things and being in too much of a hurry, be it downing drinks or popping pills, about not letting the black dog of depression blind you to the treasures life has to offer.
Continuing on a similar theme, sparse fingerpicked guitar underpins ‘I’ve Travelled This Road Forever’, a sort of early Cat Stevens with a Scottish brogue, about not letting yourself feel ‘doon’ and remembering “what goes aroon comes aroon”. Likewise, softly sung to a lightly dappled fingerpicked guitar, ‘Reality And Rebel Dreams’ reminds to “live life to the full, a long time dead” in a form of a sailor who’s “the wayward wind that blow in the sand”. Similarly, the traditional-flavoured, lightly fiddle coloured ‘Roving Journeyman’(which earned a finalist spot in a songwriting competition) recounts a wandering troubadour, playing his music, singing his songs and working with local farming lads as he passes through.
Despite the title, ‘Man In The Sky’, another briskly fingerpicked number, isn’t strictly a song about God, rather asking why he allows war to cause such suffering as the lyrics specifically reference Vietnam and the use of Agent Orange but also take a more general perspective of conflicts driven by “right wing leaders, kings and queens”. It’s also probably the only time you’ll hear anyone sing about drinking “warm Double Diamond from a can”.
It’s back to the album’s prevalent themes for both the sparsely arranged, scuffed drums gently lilting ‘Dreamers Live Only For The Dreaming’, reminding us that it’s dreamers who build the world, and, again fingerpicked, ‘Living My Life This Way’ which also takes a swipe at those whose only plan is greed and do not pay their way, calling for people to work together and “play our part”.
In a brief 67-second departure, Macfadyen’s father Innes, his son’s inspiration to pursue music, introduces and sings Robert Burns’s ‘Kirkonnel Lea’, a reel-to-reel recording from 1956 he sent to a cousin in America. He also provides the lyrics to the homesick-themed ‘Dreams Of Locahber’, penned in 1958, the year prior to his death, found in a book of songs and set to a slow waltzing Gaelic-flavoured melody by Elis featuring Campbell on fiddle.
Two five-minute tracks lead into the final stretch, the first, ‘She Smiled For Me’, a simple fingerpicked love song for his wife and memories of their eyes first meeting, followed by ‘Roadside Acquaintance’, a fable about not being in such a hurry told through an encounter with an indignant mouse on the road while out cycling who tells him “if you’d only slow down a bit instead of racing round like a tit, you might see and hear a bit more”. Pointing to a dead rabbit, the victim of another traveller, the song is also his contribution to the kill your speed (in this instance, not wildlife in the countryside) message.
Preceded by him speaking about the space between songs, it ends by setting out on ‘The Journey’, Elis setting music to lyrics by English songwriter Danielle Banks about the power of music and song to take us places and discover the mystery and magic of life. Macfadyen makes for a fine travelling companion.
Artist’s website: https://www.facebook.com/elismacfadyenmusic/
‘Roving Journeyman’ – live: