We’re used to hearing Mike Vass as an instrumentalist and, particularly, a composer. His albums have been evocative musical journeys, In The Wake Of Neil Gunn being the prime example of his talent. With Save His Calm he’s turned singer-songwriter, a most unexpected change of direction. The title is an anagram and the album is described as semi-autobiographical with the songs drawn from people and experiences of the last few years.
I was prepared to be disappointed at first. The opening song, ‘They Never Found Me’, seemed designed to avoid scaring the horses but on closer listening it sets the scene for the powerful ‘Done With Calling You’. This is clearly a song about divorce but whose breakup isn’t made clear. The accompaniments are strong but restrained with Mike confining himself to tenor guitar and he gives his band: Louis Abbot, Euan Burton, Philip Cardwell, Tom Gibbs, Su-a Lee and sister Fi an unfamiliar freedom. Cardwell’s trumpet and Gibbs piano are key instruments on the record.
In 2013 Mike contracted neuroborreliosis, a very unpleasant and potentially life-threatening disease which resulted in hospitalisation and an induced coma. As documented in ‘Gates Of Saints’ he clearly believed that he was facing his final days. Before that song we have one about someone else’s death, ‘The Rainbow Of Your Last Days’. It might have been that he was writing about his own demise before it came.
‘Just Enough To Let The Light In’ and ‘Fly’ are both about past loves and there is a theme of aging and death running through the whole album with ‘Clutching At Straws’ and ‘As I’ve Grown Older’ and it seems to me that Mike was considering his own mortality in a different way and the final ‘Walk With Me And Meet My Children’ is a slightly disturbing piece about a traffic accident and its aftermath.
The power of Save His Calm grows with repeated listening and it becomes clear that sometimes it takes a monumental event to release someone’s creativity.
Artist’s website: https://www.mikevass.com/
‘The Rainbow Of Your Last Days’ – acoustic solo: