New Releases Episode 5

This time round, the spotlight falls on some of Scotland’s under rated singer/songwriters and their new releases.

Stevie Palmer             We Become the Sunshine     Greentrax      Out Now

It might seem strange to suggest that someone who has had as much praise heaped on him as Stevie Palmer is underrated, but there remains a lack of recognition of his talents in the world at large.

Perhaps the fact that other than his involvement with the award winning stage production of Far, Far from Ypres in which his composition Black Is the Sun was a standout even in that high quality company, he has been largely absent from the music scene. It must be, I think, a decade since his last album.

His new offering proves to be well worth the wait. Co-produced with Dick Gaughan and Ian McCalman, Stevie’s distinctive voice brings an album of thoughtful and well-crafted songs that will stay with you. While the majority of the album tends to focus on the personal, from the opening Before the Flame Goes Cold to closer Somewhere, there is the occasional digression – James Watt’s Perfect Engine being a fine example.

The quality here is underlined by the plethora of talented musicians lending their backing: Kim Edgar, Phil Cunningham, Mary MacMaster and Polwarts Karine and Steven are just a few of those who grace the album. Good to have you back Stevie.

Willie Campbell         Nothing’s Going to Bring Me Down           Invisible King           

Out 11th September  

Willie Campbell is a man who believes in keeping busy, and holding on to an optimistic outlook, even in the face of these strange and unsettling times. This new album was intended to be the latest from Tumbling Souls, but lockdown happened and put paid to that.

So, rather than shelve it meantime, Willie decided to self-produce and release it as his new solo album. There are contributions from James Clifford on bass throughout, Lloyd Reid on pedal steel and one or two others crop up on the odd track, but most of what you hear is Willie himself.

And while this may not have been how he originally envisaged the finished article, this has emerged as a splendid addition to the Campbell canon. Upbeat and optimistic as befits the title, it does indeed leave you feeling just that much better for having listened to it.

There’s some memorable tunes here – Back to the Edge of the World, Endless Rhythm and Lay Your Burden down stand out on early listening. All in all, I’m glad Willie decided to carry on and release this. We need all the positivity we can get these days, and this is a joy to listen to.

The Strunts                Too Much of Everything                  Self                  Out Now

Strunt, to the best of my knowledge, was another word for dram back in Rabbie’s time. Turns out it’s also the equivalent of the English strop, and David Fee and Les Oman quote “the huff, the sulks” on the album sleeve.

And if that gives you the idea that you’re listening to two grumpy old men, I suspect you’ll not be too far wrong. These stalwarts of the Kintyre music scene had a chance meeting the day after the inauguration of            well, I don’t want to name him but I think you’ll know who they mean… Inspiration struck, and they’ve been putting together songs for this highly political, or perhaps more correctly highly humanitarian, album since that day, and now it’s here.

It falls, they say, into the category of “post-truth, new wave folk” and that’s as good a description as any. Songs like Blood and Bandages and Ranches and Mansions don’t miss their targets, that’s for sure. There’s some mordant humour, too, Alison Leith takes vocal duties on Alien in Slovenia (who can they mean…?) and there’s some fairly cutting lyrics in places.

To be honest, if you voted against Scotland, or for Brexit, or, if you’re on the other side of the Atlantic, you voted for what you’ve got, this probably isn’t going to be on your shopping list. There’s just no pleasing some folk when you tell the truth, is there?

Jim Welsh

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