MICHAEL McGOVERN – Highfield Suite (Cauldron Music CMCD004)

Highfield SuiteA high-voiced 25-year-old singer-songwriter from Glasgow, McGovern cites Springsteen, Dylan and Paul Simon among his influences, the latter clearly to be heard on the infectious title track of this impressive debut album with its echoes of ‘Homeward Bound’. Recorded with a single microphone in a wooden cabin in Ireland and then expanded in the studio with the addition of contributing musicians on pedal steel, sax and piano, Highfield Suite opens with the gently reflective fingerpicked broken down sadness of ‘I’m Not Myself Today (Take Me Back)’.

There’s more nimble fingerpicking and romantic ache to the vocally soaring ‘Munich’ while jazzier folk flavours colour ‘The Night Game’ with its simple acoustic pattern, crooning harmonies and a closing touch of Spanish classical, returning again on the gorgeous, softly swaying ‘Isle Of May’ about the deserted Scottish island although the overall feel filters its Celtic twilight with a Greek summer, a song Nana Mouskouri might have done had she been born into the tartan.

Sandwiched in-between is ‘Sleep, Sleep, Sleeping’, a lazing Cole Porterish lullaby which, along with strings and piano features some mellow sax from James Steele and McGovern’s falsetto dreaminess. It ends, too soon, with, first the lonely, ruminative piano notes of the regret-stained ‘I Let You Down’ and, finally, with its choral effect harmonies and piano arrangement, feeling like the bittersweet highlight of a stage musical, ‘I Hear Their Voices In The Attic’ and its bookending theme of mental illness.

Basically emerging out of nowhere with an inviting Scottish burr to his voice and a thoughtful songwriting ability that carries a quiet emotional power, drawing on but never slave to his influences, McGovern has delivered one of the year’s strongest debuts and seems assured of a very bright future.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website: www.michaelmcgovern.co.uk

‘Isle Of May’, the first single – official video: