Scots Whay Hae!

Talking About Scottish Culture So You Don't Have To

Last Night, They Said: The Scots Whay Hae! Podcast Talks To Last Night From Glasgow…

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Mark W. Georgsson: The Ballad Of The Nearly Man

In our first podcast of 2017, Ali talks to Ian Smith and Murray Easton, two of the founding members of record label Last Night From Glasgow.

Starting with their first release, Mark W. Georgsson’s single ‘The Ballad Of The Nearly Man’, they went on to give us some of the best records of 2016 from the likes of Emme Woods, Stephen Solo, Teen Canteen, Be Charlotte and BooHooHoo.

Along the way they have built up a loyal and faithful following all of whom who are made to feel part of the ever-growing LNFG family.

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Emme Woods: I Don’t Drink To Forget

They have done so by approaching the music business with new ideas, and some old ideas presented in a new way, and Ian and Murray discuss these in detail, and how they put them into practice.

It’s a fascinating chat which will be of interest to those involved in all areas of culture as they offer thoughts on how, in an ever changing and increasingly on-line world, the arts, and specifically music, can be supported and promoted.

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Stephen Solo: Pii

What comes across is a passion bordering on obsession, but combined with a professionalism and determination which means that there’s is a success story which is looking long term and shows no signs of slowing.

But, if that isn’t enough for you, there’s also some music to boot with an exclusive play of ‘Stay’ from Mark W. Georgsson’s forthcoming debut album, and trust me that it is worth listening out for.

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Teen Canteen: Say It All With A Kiss

If you aren’t yet a subscriber to the SWH! podcast you can do so, (or simply listen) at iTunes or by RSS. You can also download it by clicking on the relevant link to the right of this post, or, if you want it right here, right now, you can listen on

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..or on YouTube:

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Be Charlotte: Machines That Breathe

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BooHooHoo: DebutHooHoo

We’ll actually be back sooner than you think with our Burnscast 2017, so see you back here soon…

Devil’s Advocate: A Review Of Neil Broadfoot’s All The Devils…

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The last few years have seen a real development in the breadth of what I’m going to loosely call Scottish crime fiction. A genre which for so long seemed one-dimensional in style as well as content has become as varied and interesting as any other area in Scottish writing today, arguably more so.

Don’t misunderstand me, there have always been great writers in this genre. McIllvanney, Rankin, Brookmyre, McDermid – they all have a style which is distinctly theirs and which has shaped how we think of modern crime writing. But, in the last 15 years we have had important and genre busting novels from Louise Welsh, Doug Johnstone, Alex Gray, Helen Fitzgerald, Neil Mackay, Mary Paulson Ellis and Graeme Macrae Burnet, with each writer being very different in terms of style and content, but they were all to be found on the programme for the Bloody Scotland Book Festival 2016. Where readers used to perceive stereotypes they can now find variety and fresh perspectives.

I’ve said it before, but Saraband Books development of their crime imprint Contraband has taken this development even further, publishing as diverse and often experimental publications such as Graham Lironi’s Oh, Marina Girl, Douglas Skelton’s The Dead Don’t Boogie, and the aforementioned, and now Booker Prize short-listed, Graham Macrae Burnet’s My Bloody Projectas well as work from established writers Mat Bendoris, Michael J. Malone and Neil Broadfoot.

The latter’s new novel is All The Devils, the latest in his series which began with Falling Fast, which has crime journalist Doug McGregor as its anti-hero. Although set in Scotland, there is a US sensibility to Broadfoot’s writing, and a cinematic quality to match. You can imagine an in-his-prime Bruce Willis as McGregor, a man close to being broken and heading in the direction of no-return, but still determined to get to the bottom of what has a become a very personal case. While he consumes as much booze, and fights as many personal demons, as Ian Rankin’s Rebus, there is something more vital about McGregor – he is less damaged, at least so far.

Doug McGregor’s life is complex, and the threat to one of those few people he trusts and cares for pushes him over the edge so that the last vestiges of civility are stripped away and he’s ready to get ‘medieval’ on anyone who threatens him and his. This allows for some blood-curdling violence and righteous retribution. To keep the reader onside with even the most ‘anti’ of heroes, the punishment must fit the crime, and the crimes in All The Devils are not only heinous, but are worringly believable, and thoroughly contemporary.

McGregor’s world is as much about deciphering what happens online as it is dealing with the distinctly physical dangers to his health – the two are inextricably linked, resulting from his coming into contact with some of the nastiest pieces of work you are likely to encounter in any novel this year. If you are paranoid about what crimes can befall you without you leaving the comfort of your home then All The Devils will do nothing to put you at ease. This is a world of revenge porn, the dark web and online fraud, where everything is recorded in one way or another, and no password or personal detail from your past, present, and even future, is safe. While reading you can’t shake the feeling that if something terrible hasn’t happened to you yet, it’s surely only a matter of time. This may be fiction, but it cuts close to the bone.

Neil Broadfoot writes thrillers which are fast-paced, visceral and thoroughly addictive. They also unnerve in a way few other crime fiction manages due to their immediacy. Normally you close the final page, and the thrill is gone, but his books stay with you. It’s a testament to Broadfoot’s writing that despite all the trials and tribulations he puts his characters, and his readers, through you are left wanting to know what happens next. For this reason, and many more, All The Devils  is crying out to be adapted for TV or film. While you wait for that to happen, you can get in there early and acquaint yourself with Doug McGregor and his dark and dangerous world.

January Rhythm & Blues: A Preview Of Celtic Connections 2017…

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“January…let us endure this evil month”, to paraphrase the French writer Colette. You may think this overly dramatic, but you know what she’s getting at. For me, a year doesn’t get going properly til Celtic Connections begins. A festival which never fails to deliver, and which continues to grow in terms of number of gigs, breadth of music, and international stature – deep, and wide and tall.

As always, we’d like to point you in the direction of lesser known gems which can be found at the festival alongside the headliners and more well-kent attendees, which this year include Laura Marling, Billy Bragg & Joe Henry, Fairport Convention, Mary Chapin Carpenter with Altan & Julie Fowlis, and Eliza Carthy. Some of the names below you may recognise from our regular music reviews, and they all are deserving of your attention. Each one promises an unforgettable night, and what more can you ask for in these early days of 2017?

You can peruse the full programme at your leisure at Celtic Connections, and receive all the up-to-date news by following on Twitter, and Facebook.  But before you rush away, here is the Scots Whay Hae! guide, (complete with links to further details), to what we’re calling ‘the best of the rest of the fest’.

Mark W. Georgsson – 19th Jan, Hug & Pint

Ette – 20th Jan, Broadcast

Louise Bichan (supporting Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys) – 21st Jan, Royal Concert Hall

Blue Rose Code (supporting Sarah Jarosz) – 22nd Jan, City Halls

Aberfeldy – 23rd Jan, Hug & Pint

Modern Studies – 26th Jan, The Glad Cafe

Starless – 27th Jan, The Mitchell Theatre

State Broadcasters – 28th Jan, The Hug & Pint

Wotjek The Bear – 31st Jan, Broadcast

Meursault – 3rd Feb, Hug & Pint

Anna Meredith – 4th Feb, CCA

Randolph’s Leap – 5th Feb, Broadcast

Hopefully there’s something there to inspire you to buy tickets and venture out on these cold nights. If you’re thinking of going to a few then it may be worthwhile joining the Celtic Rover scheme, which offers discounts .

But if you want one suggestion as to something not to miss at the year’s Celtic Connections – a gig where you would sell your granny for a ticket – then it must surely be the chance to see Martha Wainwright supported by the man who is Ed Harcourt at O2 ABC on 3rd February. Both are great live, but Harcourt, when he is at his best, is something very special indeed.

Maybe see you at the bar of at least one of the above. Cheers…

Prestige & Prejudice: A Review Of Kevin MacNeil’s The Brilliant & Forever…*

imageIt seemed apt to be reading Kevin MacNeil’s novel The Brilliant & Forever the week of the announcement of this year’s Man Booker Prize. The hoopla and hurrah that surrounds such awards was felt more keenly than usual due to Glasgow writer Graeme Macrae Burnet’s being shortlisted for the novel His Bloody Project, published by Scottish independent Saraband Books. As with those heady days when Scotland made football World Cup Finals, here was someone to cheer for.

With wall-to-wall media coverage, including prime-time TV shows detailing the runners and riders as well as the result, it can be argued that the importance of winning, or being listed, while understandable is out of proportion. The danger is that an award itself becomes more important than the books and the writing. But while the importance of the Man Booker, and others of its ilk, may appear to be increasing year on year it’s nothing when compared to the high-stakes involved with ‘The Brilliant & Forever’.

Tellingly set on an island, a place where “everyone – human and alpaca alike – wants to be a writer”, the novel’s title refers to a yearly literary event and competition “where reputations are made and writers unmade”. The stakes are high, and those nominated have to compete for a panel of judges, as well as the all-important ‘People’s Decision’. The whole population attends, and bets are placed on who wins, and who may lose.

Three friends – the narrator, Macy and Archie – are set to compete. The first two are human while Archie is an alpaca. It’s strange how certain years reveal unexpected and coincidental themes in writing. In 2016 there have been a few notable and memorable talking animals, including James Robertson’s toad ‘Mungo Forth Mungo’ in To Be Continued, and Kellan MacInnes’s faithful and philosophical dog ‘Tyke’ in his debut novel The Making of Mickey Bell. In The Brilliant & Forever it is Archie the Alpaca who is central to the story.

Alpacas are allowed to enter ‘The Brilliant & Forever’, but clearly this is something of a token gesture from the human lawmakers, with there being no expectation that an alpaca could actually win. Theirs is a life lived as second-class citizens, and what begins as whimsy for the reader will eventually have you feeling anger and despair as the plight of the alpaca unfolds, and the treatment of Archie after his reading quickly descends from curiosity to open hostility. Kevin MacNeil has homes in Stornoway and Kandy in Sri Lanka, and the politics and cultures of both clearly feed into the novel.

As well as being differentiated by species, there is further division between the alpacas of the north and those from the south – two tribes whose mutual animosity continues to grow. One difference is that in the north they pronounce shenanigan shenanigan, “but in the south they pronounce shenanigan shenanigan”. This is an example of the linguistic impishness in which MacNeil excels, while at the same time making the point that such historical, and more often than not religious, feuds can be based on something as ultimately ludicrous as semantics. You have to laugh or you’d cry, and reading The Brilliant & Forever you’ll do both. But if you don’t it may be because, as Archie is prone to saying, “it’s a jazz thing you don’t get”.

Rarely has a writer expressed their joy of language and literature with such verve as MacNeil does here. By giving us readings from all of the competing writers he has managed to come up with distinctive styles that are completely believable while parodying many successful writers and genres. You may find you think you recognise some of the competitors, and other characters, but there is just enough of MacNeil in all of them to ensure these voices don’t clash or confuse. It’s very clever writing – something the writer himself acknowledges when one of the competitors, Calvin O’Blyth says, “The most Brilliant & Forever book this island could create is if one chapter were written by Macy Starfield, one chapter by Summer Kelly, one chapter by me and so on…” MacNeil has written that book so they don’t have to.

With The Brilliant & Forever Kevin MacNeil has pulled off the difficult trick of making readers laugh first, then making them think. It’s rare to read a book which has me laugh out loud, but MacNeil manages it, and this makes the novel’s twists and dramatic moments more shocking when they occur. It’s a novel that is philosophically interesting and engaging, examining how we consider art and culture increasingly as commodities while treating some people as if they were less then human at the same time. You may not think the two are linked, but you’d be wrong. The Brilliant & Forever shows Kevin MacNeil writing with insight, skill, passion and a playfulness which at times conceals an underlying exasperation and anger. It is evidence of a writer at the very top of their game.

*A version of this review originally appeared in Issue 20 of the always excellent The Bottle Imp.

Here is the audio version of this review:

Scots Whay Hae!’s Alternative Hogmanay Night In, 2016…

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Once again Montgomery Scott raises a glass to see out the old year and ring in the new and that means it’s time for Scots Whay Hae!’s annual selection of New Year’s Eve treats. It’s an alternative to the Hogmanay telly, so if there’s little you fancy on the box this might be more to your liking.

There’s audio, video, music, comedy, documentary, drama, and more involving some of our favourite folk, including The Blue Nile, Robbie Coltrane, John Byrne, David Hayman, Ette, Peter Ross, The Primevals, and Lomond Campbell. That’s quite a lot to get through, so without further ado….

Perhaps the least surprising recommendation to regular readers will be journalist Ken Sweeney’s documentary on The Blue Nile (which he talked about in detail to the Glasgowist). He starts at the band’s very beginning, and tries to understand why, with a mere four albums to their name in 20 years, they are so beloved by some, yet unheard of or ignored by others. If you are in the latter camp and would like to know more about them then I can recommend Allan Brown’s Nileism: The Strange Course Of The Blue Nilebut not before you listen to the following – and, more importantly, their music. It just may change your life:

Laugh??? I Nearly Paid My Licence Fee was a one-off comedy sketch show from 1982 whose ensemble included John Sessions, Louise Gold, Ron Bain, and the mighty Robbie Coltrane who created the legend that is Mason Boyne for the show. One of the regular sketches was The Master Of Dundreich, which spoofed many of the better known novels of Robert Louis Stevenson. Here those sketches are collected together, and while the humour is broad and often bawdy,  they also display a love for, and knowledge of, the source material:

Talking of Stevenson, his continued relevance and influence on Scottish writing, (alongside that of Walter Scott and James Hogg), was the subject of a talk by writer James Robertson, a man who knows that of which he speaks. This is part of a series of videos produced by the Association of Scottish Literary Studies, which also include talks on Edwin Morgan, George Mackay Brown, and, as if this was planned, the soon to be discussed The Slab Boys. But before we get ahead of ourselves, here’s Dr Robertson:

When John Byrne and David Hayman, two legends of Scottish film, theatre and TV, meet to talk about The Slab Boys, a play written by Byrne and directed at least twice by Hayman, then it is worth listening to what they have to say. So, settle back, and enjoy:

One of our films of the year was the dumbfounding 16 Years Til Summer.. You can hear Ali talk about it in Part 1 of our end of the year podcast, and if you get the chance to see it you really should. But, to give you a flavour here’s the trailer:

As well as all of our recent run of the 24 pods of Christmas, we have loaded some olden and golden podcasts from previous years to our Soundcloud page. These include chats with Billy Letford, Karen Campbell, Vic Galloway and the aforementioned James Robertson, collected together under the name Looking Back. Another is our interview with journalist Peter Ross about his 2014 book Daunderlust: Dispatches From Unreported Scotland, the review of which you can read here. In our humble opinion this is one of the most interesting and enjoyable podcasts to date:

To finish, and as an alternative to Jools, Ruby Turner and Tom Jones on the Hootenanny, here are three clips to bring in the new year. First off is a rare TV performance from legendary Glasgow band The Primevals, taken from the much-missed FSD. If you like your rock ‘n’ roll dark and scuzzy you’re in for a treat:

We’ve banged on for some time about 2016 being a great one for Scottish albums, but just to hammer the point home one more time we’re going to finish with tracks from two of the very best. First off, Lomond Campbell’s album Black River Promise arrived late in the year, but it left a big impression. Taken from a recent Song By Toad Session, here he is with ‘Every Florist In Every Town’:

We want to leave you on a high, and as 2017 hoves into view it must be time for the dancing. Ette’s Homemade Lemonade was lauded far and wide as an instant classic, (not least on Part 2 of our end of year podcast), and rightly so. To see you into the new year with a smile on your face and a spring in your step, this is one of the singles, ‘Bonfire’:

And that was 2016. The opening lines of Ali Smith’s recent novel Autumn are “It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times.” As positive as we always are, she has a point – but I hope through those darker days we have guided you in the direction of those people who are still making great music, writing great books, and creating the sort of things which make life just a little easier for us all. We’ve no idea how 2017 is going to pan out, but whatever happens we’ll be there reviewing, commenting, and talking to some of those who are going to shape it.

From everyone involved with Scots Whay Hae!, Happy New Year and we’ll see you on the other side…

That Was The Year That Was: It’s The Best Of 2016 Podcast – Part Two (Music)…

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Merry Christmas & Happy New Year From Scots Whay Hae!

In this, Part II of our end of year podcast Ali, Chris and Wesley concentrate on the best music of 2016, both recorded and live. Even our sound-guru, Ian, chips in. It’s been a cracking year for new music. As you may suspect, we start with the best from Scotland before beginning a wide-ranging discussion as to what has been on offer from elsewhere.

As well as our personal choices we talk about the rise of rise of indie record labels and how important they have become. Names such as Olive Grove Records, Song, by Toad, Errant Media and Last Night From Glasgow are home to a lot of the music and musicians under discussion, which sort of makes our point for us. There is some annual Kanye chat, a tribute to Bowie, and we name Teen Canteen and Ette singer/songwriter Carla J. Easton as our Woman Of The Year for being involved in not one, but two of the best records of 2016. If you want to hear a lot of the music that we talk about, there is a Scots Whay Hay Best of 2016 Spotify Playlist.

In case you missed it, Part I looked back at film and books from the last 12 months, and you can still hear that now, as well as indulge yourself in our extensive back catalogue of over 70 podcasts.

If you aren’t yet a subscriber to the SWH! podcast you can do so, (or simply listen) at iTunes or by RSS. You can also download it by clicking on the relevant link to the right of this post, or, if you want it right here, right now, you can listen on SoundCloud

..or on YouTube:

And that’s all from us in terms of podcasts for the year, although we are crossing the ‘t’s and dotting the ‘i’s on a few exciting ones for the new year. Before then there will be our alternative Hogmanay Hootenanny which will offer something different from the usual TV fare. All the best from Ian, Ali, Chris & Wesley. God bless us, everyone…

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