An Inverness-based music journalist, author and singer-songwriter who also front seven piece outfit Dougie Burns & The Cadillacs, Burns is a familiar figure on the Scottish music scene, Martha being his second solo album. Dedicated to his mother, hence the title, it mixes country, blues, Americana and gospel and features pedal steel, keys, banjo mandolin and even choir and cowbells.
It opens in particularly stirring form with the uptempo Celticana of the title track, Davy Cowan on mandolin before taking the pace down with harmonica blowing through ‘An Apology’ and then kicking it back up again on the rock n rolling barroom piano boogie ‘Shrine’ with Ally Macleod on backing vocals.
All songs are penned by Burns save for ‘Arms Of Our Father’, an anthemic Scottish swayalong, complete with handclaps, written at a songwriting retreat with Boo Hewardine, Peter Kirkbride and Francesca Murphy and a definite stand out. Making a guest appearance, Martin Stephenson plays slide on ‘Keep Your Mad Hat On’, another goodtime swagger, here with both Stones and Cocker echoes. Then you get some blues wail harmonica served with ‘Coffee’ alongside a side helping of fierce electric guitar and, while the somewhat turgid 70s blues rock ‘Silver Dollar’ and a sluggish ballad ‘Happy Amateur’ don’t really come off, sandwiched in-between there’s a crowd-friendly Quo-esque boogie with yet more cowbells and brother Campbell, from Glasgow rock outfit Trident, taking a guitar solo on ‘Take My Hand (Let’s Rock & Roll)’.
It ends with first the twangy guitar runs, shuffling drums and pedal steel of the country roughneck surging ‘Cry, Cry, Cry’ and, finally, bringing on The Broads choir, ‘Hey Ho’, a strummed guitar number in the classic tartan arms-linked, lighters aloft, scarfwaving tradition of ‘Sailing’. Whether there’s enough here to carry his name south of the Border, is debatable, but for his already substantial following Martha should serve as a welcome Burns night celebration.
Artist’s website: www.facebook.com/dougie.burns.1
‘Take My Hand (Let’s Rock & Roll)’ – live: