Thank You For The Music: An Appreciation Of Marina Records…

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Tonight at Celtic Connections there is a timely celebration of Marina Records, a label responsible for some of my favourite albums over the years. Theirs is an interesting story. An indie-label founded by Stefan Kassel and Frank Lähnemann in 1993 in Hamburg, Marina Records became the home of some of the classiest Scottish pop music around. If ever a label should be celebrated for their auspicious work in promoting Scottish music and supporting musicians it is Marina, and this is the opportunity to do just that.

The Mitchell Theatre gig is part of the label’s 25th birthday festivities – which included the bumper anniversary compilation Goosebumps – and sees the appearance of many Marina artists, including James Kirk, Malcolm Ross, Duglas T. Stewart, The Pearlfishers, Cowboy Mouth, The Secret Goldfish, Jazzateers, The Kingfishers, The Bathers, Sugartown, Colin Steele, The Magic Circles and Starless. That is undoubtedly musical bang for your buck. Continue reading

Beat The January Rhythm & Blues: A Preview Of Celtic Connections 2019…

“January, month of empty pockets! Let us endure this evil month…”, to quote the French writer Sidonie Gabrielle Colette (currently appearing at a cinema near you). This may be a touch dramatic, but you know what she’s getting at. For me, a year doesn’t get going properly til Celtic Connections begins. A festival that never fails to deliver, and which continues to grow in terms of number of gigs, breadth of music, and stature.

This year’s headliners and more well-kent attendees include Blue Rose Code, Judy Collins, Mariza, Sharon Shannon, Mull Historical Society, Rachel Sermanni & Jarlath Henderson, Seth Lakeman, and Karine Polwart, Kris Drever & Scottish Chamber Orchestra. There are also nights featuring or celebrating musical legends, including Ronnie Spector & The RonettesVan Morrison, John Martyn, Loudon Wainwright III, and, covering many of your favourite songs, Karine Polwart’s Scottish Songbook.

However, and as ever, we’d like to point you in the direction of lesser known gems which can be found at the festival. 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 2019?

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

GOOSEBUMPS: 25 Years of Marina Records (Krach Auf Wiedersehen!) and Fenella

A Wesley Chung and Caitlin Buchanan

Last Night From Glasgow: The Gracious Losers and L-space (acoustic)

The Sweetheart Revue and Headcloud

Zoe Graham and John Edge & The Kings of Nowhere

Withered Hand

Broken Chanter and Jill O’Sullivan

Henry & Fleetwood

Carla J. Easton and Mark McGowan

Andrew Wasylyk and support

Olive Grove Records Showcase: Chrissy Barnacle, Pocket Knife, Moonsoup, Circle Meets Dot and Jared Celosse

Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert with Marry Waterson & Emily Barker

Hope to see you at at least one of the above…

Hearts & Minds: A Review Of Beerjacket’s Silver Cords…

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It was an interesting development in Scottish writing that two of the most talked about books from the end of 2018 were published by record labels – Stephen Watt & Friends poetry collection MCSTAPE on Last Night From Glasgow, and Beerjacket’s Silver Cords on Scottish Fiction. There are good and understandable reasons for this. The former contains poems about all manner of music related experiences, many of which were written by some of Scotland’s best known musicians, while Beerjacket’s Silver Cords is not only a book of short stories and lyrics, but also the name of the accompanying CD  – his first collection of new songs for some years. However, you can’t help but wonder if this music/publishing industry crossover is, in some small way, a sign of things to come.

If you have listened to the recent SWH! Podcast interview with Beerjacket (also known as Peter Kelly) then you will know much of this. What you won’t have is a clear idea of just what the book Silver Cords is like. Musicians have tried their hand at fiction before with varying degrees of success. For every Nick Cave’s And The Ass Saw The Angel or Louise Wener’s The Half Life of Stars there’s more than a few which rank (rotten) alongside Bruce Dickinson’s The Adventures Of Lord Iffy Boatrace or Morrissey’s List of the Lost. Taking that in to account an understandable question must be, “Is Silver Cords any good?” Well, I’m here to tell you not to worry. The short answer is undoubtedly, “Yes”. The longer answer begins below. Continue reading

New Musical Success: The Best New Music From The Last Month…

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While putting together the SWH! Tracks Of The Year Spotify playlist for 2018 it became clear that it had been a hell of a year for music with each month bringing new and exciting tunes. It might be a new year but the great music keeps coming and the first review of 2019 more than makes that point.

It sees the return of some SWH! favourites as well as others new to these pages. There’s Americana, rock ‘n’ roll, psychedelic pop, indie-folk, lo-fi funk, beautiful balladry, and more. No matter what your taste we are sure you’ll find something which suits you. Celebrate good times, come on!

We are going to kick off with the return of Sister John. Their debut release Returned From Sea was one of the finest albums of 2017, introducing a band who arrived fully-formed and who have music in their very souls.  Their latest album, also called Sister John, is released on the 25th January on Last Night From Glasgow, but from it the song ‘I’m The One’ is out now and it’s a doozy. There’s a distinct CBGB’s/Bowery vibe going on – imagine The Velvet Underground’s ‘Rock & Roll’ sung by a chilled-out Patti Smith and you’ll have some idea. With understated rhythm and twangy guitar backing Amanda McKeown’s soulful vocals it’s a lesson that when it comes to music to move you less is almost always more. The accompanying video is a thing of joy as well. This is ‘I’m The One’ – Let’s dance!:

Continue reading

Telling Stories & Singing Songs : The Scots Whay Hae! Podcast Talks To Beerjacket…

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Picture Credit: Robert Perry

For the first podcast of 2019, Ali caught up with Peter Kelly, better known as singer/songwriter Beerjacket, to talk about Silver Cords (out now on Scottish Fiction) which is not only the name of his latest collection of songs, but also of the accompanying book of short stories, (see below – & there’ll be a review on these pages soon).

The two talk about the project from its early days through to completion, how the stories images-1work with the songs, the reason Peter chooses to work under a pseudonym, the complex nature of the creative process, and why Beerjacket is now back after some time away.

They also discuss how essential it is to give art value, the cultural weight of physical things, the complex relationship between dreams and reality, just how important collaboration is, the enduring power of songs, and a whole lot more. Continue reading

Scots Whay Hae!’s Alternative Hogmanay Night In, 2018…


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 there might be something here to your liking.

There’s been a lot of programmes looking at the life and times of Billy Connolly recently, so it seems apt to post a link to what is, in my opinion, the funniest hour of TV that there has ever been. It’s the legendary An Audience With Billy Connolly:

One of our podcast guests of 2018 was filmmaker May Miles Thomas whose film Voyageuse was one of the best of the year – rightly winning awards and critical acclaim. Here’s the trailer, along with a link to where you can watch the full film:

Voyaguese – Full Movie

This year we lost the great Tom Leonard, a poet who changed the perception of Glasgwegian literature, and who was part of a generation of writers who shaped modern Scotland. Here is some rare footage of the man himself reading at the CCA, then known as the Third Eye Centre, in 1976. Rest in peace:

2018 was the year of Muriel Spark 100 with 12 months of events celebrating the centenary of her birth, as well as the republishing of all her novels by Birlinn. One of the most entertaining is Spark’s comic take on the Watergate Scandal, The Abbess of Crewe, which was later made into the film Nasty Habits, starring Glenda Jackson. Sounds unlikely? Here’s the trailer:

A slice of SWH! podcast gold now as we go way back to 2013 and our interview with the writer James Robertson. He was principally there to talk about his novel concerning the Lockerbie disaster The Professor Of Truth but ended up discussing a whole lot more:

A superior alternative to that there Hootenanny is surely Roddy Hart‘s Best of 2018 which will act as the perfect soundtrack to your evening, sans excess boogie-woogie piano:

Roddy Hart’s Best Of 2018

But if that’s not enough for you, here’s more music to ease you into 2019 from bands who are set fair to have a cracking 2019. First off are OK Button, who made quite a splash in late 2018. Here they are with their recent single ‘Beds’:

Perhaps the album we are most excited about is from Half Formed Things which is on its way in the new year. Why are we so excited? Because they make music like this:

Cloth are another band who came to everyone’s attention in 2018 with their releases on Last Night From Glasgow receiving praise far and wide. This is ‘Old Bear’ taken from their BBC Music Introducing Session in November, and it highlights what a fine live band they are as well as on record. Expect an album soon:

And finally, this year Ali was asked on to Sunny Govan Radio by Disco Dale to take part in his ‘Well Kent Faces’ show, where he had to nominate three songs which reminded him of Glasgow in some way. If you missed it I won’t tell you what they were yet as it will be available online in the new year, but here’s one he definitely missed:

And that was 2018. We’ve no idea how 2019 is going to pan out (who could?), but whatever happens we’ll be there reviewing, commenting, and in conversation with 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 2018 Podcasts – Part 3 (Music)…

For our final Best Of 2018 podcast Ali, Chris Ward, Wesley Shearer, accompanied by our very own Young Father, Ian, discuss their favourite records of the year, and the best gigs of 2018. What do they choose? Well you’ll just have to listen to find out (although the tags at the bottom of this page give some clues), but we can say that there are a hell of a lot of winners, and nary a loser in sight as they decide that the year in music was a rather fine one.

You can still listen to our review of the best books of the year, with Vikki Reilly, and the review of the year in film, also with Chris & Wesley. And in the new year we can promise you even more special guests and discussion about all things cultural which are happening in and around Scotland, starting with the muscian and writer Beerjacket, (also sometimes known as Peter Kelly).

If you are new round these parts there is also quite a substantial number of previous SWH! podcasts for you to discover. If you aren’t yet a subscriber you can do so, (or simply listen) at iTunes, on Podbean, or by RSS (but you’ll need to have an RSS reader to do so). You can also download the podcast 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:

That’s yer whack of podcast fun for 2018, but we’ll be back in the new year with new guests to inform, entertain, and delight you.

That Was The Year That Was: It’s The Best Of 2018 Podcasts – Part 2 (Films)…

For our review of the year in film Ali & Ian were joined once more by Chris Ward and Wesley Shearer to discuss their favourite films of 2018, the year in Scottish film, any themes and trends which could be uncovered, the pros and cons of Netflix, the genius of Lynne Ramsay, and if Mel Gibson films are better or worse for the involvement of Mel Gibson. It’s an enjoyable hour where all three have some shared choices, but also offer suggestions which are new to everyone else, and possibly to you.

If you are new round these parts there is also quite a substantial number of previous SWH! podcasts for you to discover. If you aren’t yet a subscriber you can do so, (or simply listen) at iTunes, on Podbean, or by RSS (but you’ll need to have an RSS reader to do so). You can also download the podcast 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:

We will be back very soon for our last podcast of 2018 looking at the year in music, so don’t miss out…

Tom Leonard (1944 – 2018)

Tom Leonard 1944 – 2018

Back in 1986 I visited Glasgow’s Caledonia Books on Great Western Road and it changed my life. I had recently seen Carl McDougall do a reading at Stirling University and that was the first time I had heard someone who spoke like me and my friends and family reading poetry or involved in literature, and it gave me a thirst for more. In the shop I picked up a copy of James Kelman’s The Busconductor Hines, Iain Banks The Wasp Factory and Tom Leonard’s collection of poetry Intimate Voices. I then spent the rest of the afternoon nursing an underage pint and reading the latter from cover to cover. I would never be the same again.

It’s with great sadness that I write this after hearing about Tom Leonard’s passing. He, alongside his friends and contemporaries James Kelman, Liz Lochhead, Aonghas MacNeacail and Alasdair Gray, would change the landscape of Scottish writing forever, astonishingly all part of the same writing group in Glasgow overseen by Philip Hobsbaum. I love them all, but Leonard’s poetry in particular made a lasting impression. It took the everyday speech of those he lived with, knew and met and made it something magical. Continue reading

Not Waving But Drowning: A Review Of Christina Neuwirth’s Amphibian…

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The workplace has long been a rich source of material for writers. A publishing house in Muriel Spark’s A Far Cry From Kensington, the bus depot in James Kelman’s The Busconductor Hines, a Post Office in Charles Bukowski’s novel of the same name, or even George Orwell’s Animal Farm – they are all used to reflect the society and politics of the time.  However, the everyday drudgery of modern office life is rarely portrayed in literature, perhaps for the very reason that it is seen as a place where the dramatic is often hard to find.

Christina Neuwirth understands this and subverts it brilliantly with her novella Amphibian. It is the perfect parable for our times, with themes of corporate control, individual apathy and uncertainty, and a general dissatisfaction with modern living, told with wry humour and a gentle surrealism that doesn’t intrude but only enhances the story.  Not so much magical realism, more a commentary on capitalism in a modernist style. If Kafka had worked for an Edinburgh finance company this is the book he would have written. Continue reading