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.

You can buy tickets here – but be quick as it’s almost sold out, and get there in plenty of time to see the fabulous Fenella who is the support.

To convince you further, here are five of my favourite songs which came out, thanks to Marina:

The Bathers – If Love Could Last Forever

June & The Exit Wounds – Let’s Shack Up Together

The Pearlfishers – Flora Belle

Sugartown – Valentine

Roddy Frame – Live – Your Smile Has Stopped The Hands Of Time

As you can hear, it’s going to be a night of sheer quality. Hope to see you there…

 

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.

I need to talk first about the structure of the book as it is deliberate and shapes your reading. The forward and afterword (which Peter reads on the podcast) frame the book in terms of themes, ideas, and intent. In them he touches upon the enduring nature of songs, the importance of giving things value, the significance of physical things, and examines why people write or sing their thoughts and dreams and choose to share them. 

Each “chapter” then begins with a song’s lyrics, followed by a page which reflects on that song before the accompanying story. Each section is vital to the whole, with Kelly’s reflections working as philosophical aphorisms and poems that are bridges between song and story. These should not be overlooked as they provide the writer’s insight into what you are reading while allowing you plenty of space for your own. When you add the hand-drawn illustrations, which are also Kelly’s, then it is clear that Silver Cords is not just an exercise in writing fiction, more a labour of love that the author felt he had to get out.

This is clear in the content and themes. Silver Cords is a very personal investigation of modern life which will chime with every reader. Philosophy, psychology, aesthetics, and questions on social and cultural concerns, are all examined, and the stories have characters who are dealing with existential crisis and self-doubt, often brought about by everyday living. Family, work, relationships, technology, individual and social expectations, all of these are touched upon as Kelly explores the concept of ‘happiness’ and what cost is paid in its pursuit.

The relationship between dreams and ‘reality’ also runs throughout, asking questions which are reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem ‘A Dream Within A Dream’. Kelly’s stories also put you in mind of some of the short fiction collections of Helen McClory (Mayhem & Death) and Kirsty Logan (The Rental Heart & Other Fairytales), and the recent poetry of Jenni Fagan (There’s A Witch In The Word Machine), in that they all examine the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious, and where the desire and compulsion for story telling comes from.

For Kelly dreams are the ‘silver cords’ connecting the creative and practical aspects of a person’s psyche, firing the imagination and inspiring an individual to create something from what occurs, whether in song, story, drawing, or poetry, all of which are a feature of this extraordinary book. It’s rare that an artist sets out a thesis on the importance of the creative process as clearly and then sees the resulting vision realised so fully.

The best art makes you understand yourself better through other people’s thoughts, ideas and expression. With Silver Cords Peter Kelly has created a work so unashamedly personal that we should be thankful he has shared it with us. We’re all the better for it.

Silver Cords is published by Scottish Fiction.

You can hear Beerjacket talking to Ali on the SWH! Podcast.

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!:

We featured Gordon James And The Power in the SWH! music review for October last year, and they are following that up, appropriately enough, with ‘Follow Me‘ which cements those first impressions that this is a very special band indeed, writing power-pop songs which demand repeat listening. They are in the classic American tradition of The Dave Matthews Band, Don Henley, Tom Petty, and I could go on. Gordon James And The Power sound like many of your favourite records yet like no-one else but themselves. I feel like I’ve been listening to them my whole life, yet have only heard two tracks. Roll on the summer as they are surely going to provide a soundtrack to remember. While we wait, this is ‘Follow Me’:

It’s all happening in Braemar, believe me. You’ll likely already know about the Gigs at Braemar Gallery, which this year promises visits from Mt Doubt and Carla J. Easton among others, and which in the last few years has established itself as one of the best small venues in the country. Now we have the emergence of Youth Team, otherwise known as Angus Upton, who makes music not unlike a present-day John Carpenter, creating electronic soundscapes which you could lose yourself in. Other comparisons are with u-Ziq, Murcoff and Four Tet – in fact the album sent me back to those electronica records which I hadn’t listened to in years and it proved Youth Team deserves to be in such company. Rightly chosen as one of Vic Galloway’s 25 Scottish Artists to Watch in 2019, the future looks bright and this is the perfect soundtrack. From the album Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape this is ‘Glisten’:

When it comes to Scottish psychedelic and ’60 inflected pop we are very well served at the moment with the promise of a long-awaited Barrie-James album coming soon, and the numerous collaborations between the musicians who play with Stilton, Lavinia Blackwall, and The Wellgreen particularly notable, all of whom you should investigate as they are currently making some of the best and most interesting music around. The Wellgreen have recently released a double A-side single, ‘Take What You Get’ and ‘Cynthia Rhymes’, the latter of which is a gorgeous slice of summery pop packed with hooks and harmonies, reminiscent of The Hollies and Manfred Mann. Guaranteed to brighten your day, this is ‘Cynthia Rhymes’:

And so to Fat Cops, whose members include Bobby Bluebell, Al Murray and Chris Deerin, a perhaps surprising mix of songwriter, comedian, and journalist. This may sound like a vanity project writ-large, but don’t be fooled – on the evidence of ‘Hands Up! Get Down!‘, from their forthcoming album of the same name, they are serious enough to ensure that good times are guaranteed. The music is loose and laid-back funk reminiscent of The Fun Loving Criminals, Black Grape, The Soup Dragons, and, more recently, Edinburgh’s own James Brown Is Annie. With the promise of special guests coming and going along the way (that’s a McCluskey Brother on moothie) they may just be the breakout stars of 2019. Call the cops!:

As regulars will know much of the music which features on SWH! comes courtesy of the fine indie record labels who shape much of what people are listening to right now. One of the very best to emerge in recent years is Iffy Folk, the home to, among others, PeltsKevin P. Gilday & the Glasgow Cross, Indigoguy, and Syvdoh. If some, or all, of those names are new to you then Iffy Folk have just released a fantastic sampler album which showcases the best of what they do. Go on, support your local indie – they make the world a much better place:

We premiered Hugh Kearns’ EP Inside Looking Out in April last year, which came out on the consistently excellent, or, if you prefer, the excellently consistent, Holy Smokes Records. Well they are at it again in the shape of Kearns’ latest release ‘Goodbye Marie’, and it’s a song which oozes class, from Kearns’ mournful vocals, the understated piano and guitar, the effortless elegance of the harmonies, all building to a wonderful finish. It’s quite simply one of the classiest things you’ll hear this year and Hugh Kearns is proving to be a musician who it’s impossible to ignore. Take a listen and see if you agree:

Sarah Hayes has appeared more than a few times on these pages, either with her beautiful solo records or with Admiral Fallow. She is an incredible multi-instrumentalist who just happens to have a beautiful voice as well. The latter is to the fore on her latest collaboration You Tell Me, which she has formed with Field Music’s Peter Brewis. Their debut album is out on the 11th January, but you can have a taste right here and now with the song ‘Clarion Call’. Like many of the tracks featured in this review it takes influences from the past and adds a modern sensibility and production to make something brand new. In this case there’s a ’70s feel, where folk meets pop in the manner of early Kate Bush, Nick Drake, or more recently Bon Iver and Laura Marling. But the only thing which matters is that it is utterly gorgeous and promises great things for You Tell Me and for the rest of us. This is ‘Clarion Call’:

That’s us done for the first review of the year. If you have music which you think deserves to feature on SWH! then you can contact us on scotswhayhae@gmail.com.

You can also get in touch on Twitter or Facebook. We listen to everything which comes our way and very much appreciate it when people get in touch. We couldn’t do it otherwise. See you back here soon…

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.

An absolute pleasure to take part in, it’s a conversation which will appeal to anyone interested in the artistic process, whether that’s making music, writing, or any other form.

If you are new round these parts there is quite a substantial back-catalogue of 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:

A great way to kick off the new year, we hope you agree, and there will be plenty more podcast guests to keep you educated, informed, and hopefully entertained as 2019 unfolds. See you back here very soon…

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.

The Tracks Of My Year: SWH!’s 10 Best Songs Of 2018…

a4136536009_101Without a doubt 2018 was a year of exceptional albums from start to finish, from such as The Gracious Losers, Starry Skies, Modern Studies, The Scottish Enlightenment, Carla J. Easton, L-Space, Kirsty Law, C.S. Buchan & Friends, Roberts/Skuse/McGuinness, Zoe Bestel, Kathryn Joseph, Aidan Moffat and R.M Hubbert, Vive La Rose, Errant Boy, and many more (some of which have tracks which feature below). Here’s hoping for a similar high quality return in 2019.

But before we get ahead of ourselves – if you can fit in one more ‘Best Of The Year’ list, small but perfectly formed, this is our annual choice of the 10 best songs reviewed on these pages over the last 12 months. As ever, it’s a list which focuses on individual tracks, but if you like what you hear you should investigate further as most of them are to be found on equally awesome albums or EPs.

That’s enough preamble – here’s the countdown, listed in order of their date of release, and what we thought about them at the time, with a few relevant updates…

Carla J. Easton – Lights In The Dark

Carla J. Easton has made music as a member of Teen Canteen, under the name of Ette, and on multiple other collaborations. In 2018 she released the album Impossible Stuff under her own name which made it clear that no matter the moniker it is business as usual as Easton continues to prove she is incapable of making music which is anything other than magical. Exhibit A is ‘Lights In The Dark’, and it is a moody and mature slice of electro pop which shows others just how this sort of thing should be done. Carla J. Easton deserves to reach the widest audience possible and this could be the song to do just that. Take a listen and see if you agree:

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LP Records & Radio Days: The Scots Whay Podcast Talks To Lorenzo Pacitti…

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Lorenzo outside LP Records (image LP Records/Facebook)

For the latest podcast Ali visited LP Records in Glasgow’s West End to talk to LP himself, Lorenzo Pacitti. The two talk about the history of his LP Record store, the move into becoming a label, (releasing music from Wesley A. Chung, American Clay, and Codist), and his plans to start LP Radio, a station which will be based in the store.

There are also tales of Nicki Minaj, the vital role of darts in the LP story, time spent in Texas and Seattle, the pros and cons of the vinyl resurrection, and his vision of the perfect radio station. For anyone interested in the record business – the records and/or the business – it’s a must listen.

To keep up with all things LP you can follow on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram. Continue reading

New Musical Success: A Review Of The Best New Music From The Last Month…

unnamed.pngIt’s the time for everyone’s end of year lists, and as SWH! will be posting our own in the coming days and weeks it would be a touch hypocritical to complain, but I do feel for writers, film makers, musicians, etc, who put out something new in November/December as they are often overlooked in the rush to compile and commemorate what’s gone before. Well, not on our watch.

What follows are the best tracks to reach our ears over the last month, including some rocking rockabilly, mind-expanding psychedelia, indie-agitpop, a natural beauty, a multi- genre triumph, and a song which became an anthem for many in 2018. It’s a fine selection which also acts as a neat summary of what was an inventive and eclectic year. More of that very soon, but in the meantime…

We have been fans of The Strange Blue Dreams at SWH! for a long time, (and also of their alter egos The Shiverin’​ Sheiks). Their latest single is ‘Man’s Game’, and it is that rarest of beasts – a good song about football, one packed full of metaphor and meaning, comparing the ups and downs of the beautiful game to the trials and tribulations of life. And if that sounds a bit ‘Thought For The Day’, have no fear – The Strange Blue Dreams deliver a slice of off-kilter rockabilly and skiffle, full of twangy guitar and a snare as tight as a drum, sounding for all the world like the house band in a Coen Brothers’ movie.  Catch them for yourself at Glasgow’s Oran Mor tomorrow night (5/12/18). In the meantime, this is ‘Man’s Game’:

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