Scots Whay Hae!’s Alternative Hogmanay Night In, 2017…

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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 there might be something here to your liking.

There’s audio, video, music, comedy, documentary, drama, and more involving some of our favourite folk, including Vic Galloway, Muriel Spark, Alan Cumming, Forbes Masson, Benny Lynch, Peter Mackie Burns, Vikki Reilly and Kristian Kerr, Pocket Knife, Sandie Shaw, and Hamish Imlach. How’s that for a guest list? There’s quite a lot to get through, so without further ado….

We’re going to kick off with a radio documentary from Uncle Vic Galloway all about the past, present, and hopefully the future of Glasgow’s iconic Barrowlands Ballroom, with music from Iggy Pop, Public Enemy, Franz Ferdinand and more. Click the link below for the full programme:

Vic Galloway’s Barrowlands

Next is the chance to watch the infamous film version of Muriel Spark’s novella The Driver’s Seat, which stars Elizabeth Taylor, Ian Bannen, and a cameo from Andy Warhol! You can read Ali’s thoughts on The Driver’s Seat in the latest issue of The Bottle Imp, which may help you decide if the film is for you or not – but, for better or worse, you won’t see a movie like this for some time:

A wee treat now – some rare footage of Kelvinside’s Victor & Barry performing at the Edinburgh Fringe back in the day, with messrs Cumming and Masson on the finest of form. Not the best quality, but that’s VHS for you:

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*Reeling In The Years: A Review Of Polly Clark’s Larchfield…

Larchfield-300x467If you believe the reports that attention spans are in terminal decline then it must be more important then ever for a writer to grab readers’ attention from the off, to avoid their eye moving to the next Amazon recommendation or Sunday supplement review as they try to complete the Sisyphean task of keeping up to date with the new. This struck me as I read the early chapters of Polly Clark’s ‘Larchfield’. Few novels have an opening as arresting as it has, using imagery and language as visceral as it is unexpected. It’s a novel that, like its two central characters, refuses to be ignored

Clark takes the two years that the poet W.H. Auden spent teaching in Helensburgh at Larchfield Academy as the basis for her book. There are two stories to be told, at first distinctly individual before beginning to overlap. The first unfolds in the chapters named ‘Wystan’, Auden’s Christian name, and is a fictional account of his life at the school. Leaving the literati of London just at the point he is starting to be known as a poet, he feels compelled to escape due to a mix of controversy and personal crisis; his coming to terms with his sexuality as important a reason as any other. When he arrives to take his role at Larchfield, replacing his friend and fellow poet Cecil Day-Lewis, he finds his reputation has somewhat gone before him. Continue reading

That Was The Year That Was: It’s The Best Of 2017 Podcasts – Part 3 (Books)…

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This year we are recording three separate Best Of 2017 podcasts, one each for film and music, (which you can still hear), and this, Part III, concentrating on the best books of the year and all things literary.

Catching up at the fabulous Lighthouse Bookshop in Edinburgh, Ali chats with Birlinn Vikki PicLtd and Polygon Books‘ very own Vikki Reilly (see right) about the highs-and lows of the year in Scottish publishing, as well as offering their own recommendations and suggestions as to the best books of 2017 (some of which are pictured at the top of the page).

NLS-exhibitionThe talk touches upon many, many things, including the welcome emergence of 404 Ink, the recent Saltire Literary Awards (where the aforementioned 404 Ink were named Emerging Publisher of the Year, & Birlinn were awarded Scottish Publisher of the Year), the positive influence of recent podcast guest Graeme Macrae Burnet‘s Booker short-listing, the continuing revival of the printed word, the importance of publishing writers from outside of the Central Belt, the sad and strange demise of Freight Books, the titles Vikki wishes she had been involved with, and how the next 12 months look as though they will be dominated by the centenary of the birth of Muriel Spark and all the events, (and Birlinn’s re-publishing of her novels), which will accompany it. Continue reading

That Was The Year That Was: It’s The Best Of 2017 Podcasts – Part 2 (Music)…

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This year we are recording three separate Best Of 2017 podcasts, one each for film, music, and books. For the first two, Ali and Ian are once again joined by irregular podcast guest and resident film expert Chris Ward, and Scottish music man & manager, Wesley Shearer.

In this, Part II, we concentrate on the year in music, beginning with the best Scottish music of 2017 (much of which features on Track Of My Year: SWH!’s 10 Best Songs Of 2017 or on SWH!’s Best of 2017 Spotify list), before we widen it out. The conversation touches on the continuing success of indie labels, including Olive Grove Records, Last Night From Glasgow, Song By Toad, Holy Smokes Records and Errant Media, as well as lots of chat about the records and gigs that have impressed us over the last 12 months. Continue reading

The Tracks Of My Year: SWH!’s 10 Best Songs Of 2017…

a1260797498_10In this writer’s opinion, 2017 has been a belter for Scottish music with exceptional albums from Mark W. Georgsson, BMX Bandits, Blue Rose Code, Findlay Napier, Stephen McLaren, State Broadcasters, The Miss’s, Annie Booth, Quick, Storm The Palace, The Sweetheart Revue, Best Girl Athlete, Campfires In Winter, Sun Rose, and many more (some of which feature below). Here’s hoping for more of this sort of thing in 2018.

But before we get ahead of ourselves – you’ll more than likely have had yer fill of ‘Best Of The Year’ lists , but if you can fit in one more, 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.

If you aren’t sated by what follows you can discover more of the new music we covered on Scots Whay Hae! by listening to our Best of 2017 Spotify list.

But enough preamble, here’s the countdown listed in chronological order and what we thought about them at the time, with a few relevant updates…

Yakima – Wabi Sabi

There are times, and these are times, when you need a band and a song who will sort things out for you, and, at least for a short while, make everything all right. Yakima are that band, and ‘Wabi Sabi’ is that song, taken from their single Medicine For Family Entertainment. Sounding like the cooler young cousins of The Afghan Whigs, or a less cynical Buffalo Tom, this is a song guaranteed to brighten your day or your money back*. I suspect Yakima have an excellent record collection from which they have learned some important lessons and used them to make something brand spanking new and all of their own:

*(This is clearly not a binding promise – clearly).

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That Was The Year That Was: It’s The Best Of 2017 Podcasts – Part 1 (Film)…

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This year we are recording three separate Best Of 2017 podcasts, one each for film, music, and books. For the first two, Ali and Ian are once again joined by irregular podcast guest and resident film expert Chris Ward, and Scottish music man & manager, Wesley Shearer.

In this, Part I, we concentrate on the films of 2017, and give you some recommendations. As usual, Ali kicks things off talking about his favourite Scottish films of the year, including T2: Trainspotting, Daphne, Benny, The End Of The Game, and Lost In France before Chris and Wesley widen the discussion to talk about the best films they have seen in the last 12 months. As well as their recommendations, they talk about the continuing success of the Glasgow Film Festival, the growing influence of streaming services, the possible threat to cinemas, and more. Continue reading

The Good Word: Scots Whay Hae!’s Best Books Of 2017…

 

dsc_06491.jpgYou may have had your fill of ‘Books Of The Year’ lists, but we like to think that Scots Whay Hae!’s selection is small, beautifully formed, and well worthy of your attention.

These are the books which stood out against stiff competition in 2017. The list could easily have been longer but we like to stick to a traditional Top Ten. Consisting of five novels, two short story collections, a musical/historical biography, a collection of journalism, and a peerless book of essays, they take you to Memphis, Airdrie, Springboig and the Alsace, with detours to Firhill, London during the Blitz, New Mexico and Millport along the way. Taken as a whole they are a testament to the breadth of artistic and cultural imagination at large in Scotland today. Need further convincing? Here’s what we thought at the time:

DSC_0382David Keenan – This Is Memorial Device

This Is Memorial Device is spot on in terms of time and place, but it’s so much more than that. It’s rare for a writer to capture both in a manner which avoids nostalgia and feels relevant, but Keenan manages to do so. This is a novel which is about what it means to be young, about the hows and whys – the when and where is less relevant. It’s about youth. Real youth, not the sort of arrested development that is all too common these days. I’ve read it twice and will do so again before too long. At the age of 46 it’s had a palpable effect on me. If I had read it when I was 15, (as happened with The Busconductor Hines and The Wasp Factory),  there’s every chance it would have changed my life. That’s your definition of a cult novel right there.

You can hear David Keenan talking about This Is Memorial Device on the SWH! podcast. Continue reading

The Long & Short Of It: A Review Of James Kelman’s That Was A Shiver And Other Stories…

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There is an argument which you may have heard, possibly on these pages, that while James Kelman is one of the finest novelists around today, the format which suits his writing best is the short story. Kelman’s narratives are not about plot, they are snapshots of people’s everyday lives; lives which have been going on before we become involved, and which will continue once we have moved on, and that seems to work best in short, sharp bursts – fleeting, like thoughts themselves.

His latest collection, That Was A Shiver and Other Storiesis testament to this. For Kelman acolytes there are all the usual touchstones – references to other art forms, existential philosophy, the influence of Descartes (‘Clinging On’), internal monologues, socio/political commentary, and an unconventional use of language and grammar. But there are also surprises. There’s more obvious humour in these stories than has previously been the case. Kelman has always been funny (“I cannot eat a Johnny Cash cassette!”, from ‘the same is here again’, being just one example), but it was always a dark, unsettling, almost gallows humour which has become synonymous with the west of Scotland. Continue reading

Past & Present Tense: A Review Of Ever Dundas’ Goblin…

dsc_0634.jpgEvery so often a debut novel comes along which confounds your expectations and enchants your sensibilities, making you marvel at a writer who manages to get it so right first time out. David Keenan’s This Is Memorial Device is once such book from earlier this year, and, against most odds, it as happened once again with Ever Dundas’ Goblin.

It’s a novel full of surprises, and which takes you in unexpected directions. After a few chapters I had it pegged as an urban fantasy similar to Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, China Mieville’s King Rat, or even Clive Barker’s Weaveworld, with the young central character, the titular ‘Goblin’, making her way in a Blitz-torn London with various characters and creatures as her eccentric support group – a coterie of Devils, lizards and Monstas. As she gets older and her world gets bigger, Goblin becomes a different novel altogether, more reminiscent of Jenni Fagan’s The Panopticon, following Goblin as she becomes a young woman, discovering more about herself and others as her experiences accumulate. Continue reading

Scots Whay Hae! Presents… Awkward Family Portraits & ‘Shoulder Biting Joe’.

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There are few things finer than discovering a new band who play music just as you like it. When it happens you want to share with the world, and that’s why we at Scots Whay Hae! are delighted and honoured to be premiering ‘Shoulder Biting Joe’, the latest single from Glasgow-based Awkward Family Portraits, released on the always reliable Holy Smokes Records – (home to SWH! favourites The Strange Blue Dreams and Harry and the Hendersons). Continue reading