NORRIE MCCULLOCH – These Mountain Blues (Black Dust BDR1601)

These Mountain BluesSounding like Martyn Joseph with a Glaswegian accent (notably on jaunty opener ‘Calico Days’ and the more reflective piano ballad ‘Hard To Be The Man You Are Not’), the Scottish singer-songwriter took to the road from Austin to Nashville, including a visit to the grave of Townes van Zandt (recounted on the piano backed title track), gathering inspiration and songs that would make up this, his follow-up to 2014’s Old Lovers Junkyard. Recording the results over three days back home in Stirling, it’s a punchy affair that embraces Americana stained folk and country, the latter evident on the terrific regret streaked ‘New Joke’ and ‘When She Is Crying Too’, both featuring Dave McGowan on weeping pedal steel, while the former is particularly potent on the harmonica edged, acoustic strummed ‘Black Dust’, about the grandfather he never knew who paid the price of the terrible conditions in the Ayrshire coalfields, a number that forges a strong kinship with Joseph’s own mining-themed songs ‘Please Sir’ and his 2010 ‘Broken Peace’ project.

Musically and lyrically, there’s muscle and sinew here, whether delicate as on the piano tinkling wistful, nostalgic longing for times long gone in ‘The Old Room’ or the more vibrant train rhythm drive of ‘Pass By My Door’ and the strum of the nature imagery scattered ‘Cloudberry Flower’. But it’s the quieter, more reflective moments where the album shines brightest, closing in emotionally powerful form with ‘Heart’s Got To Be In The Right Place’, a song about a family torn apart by the separation of the parents, one taking the daughter, the other the son. McCulloch’s yet to really make his mark beyond the Scottish border, but this and the upcoming tour should go a long way to spreading the word.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

‘Pass By My Door’ – live recording session: