2017 has produced great music of all shapes, sizes and sounds, but the singer/songwriter has had a particularly fine year. Albums by Mark W Georgsson, Siobhan Wilson, Annie Booth, Stephen McLaren, and Blue Rose Code (ne: Ross Wilson) have proved to be among the better records of the year, and the recent Autumnal releases have continued this trend. So much so that this latest review is a bit of a singer/songwriter special, with a couple of bands sneaking in at the end for balance.
Glasgow is the latest album from Findlay Napier, whose work I hope is familiar to most readers, but if it isn’t then Glasgow is the perfect place to start. Known as one of the finest folk writers and musicians around, this is a record which seems more personal than previous work, and is all the more powerful for it. It’s a place where folk meets indie in a mood of celebration and reflection, and aside from his original compositions there are covers of two Glaswegian classics – Hamish Imlach’s ‘Cod Liver Oil & The Orange Juice’, and The Blue Nile’s ‘A Walk Across The Rooftops’. It’s as if someone had told him what I want for Christmas. Continue reading
Last year, in a review of Cathy McSporran’s novel Cold City for Gutter magazine, I suggested that, “There are just not enough great Glasgow novels”. I am going to have to retract that, at least partially, as recently there have been some really interesting and innovative novels based in Glasgow. In the last 8 months, as well as Cold City, there has been Jane Alexander’s The Last Treasure Hunt, Graham Lironi’s Oh Marina Girl, Douglas Lindsay’s The Legend of Barney Thompson (now a major movie, folks) and part of Karen Campbell’s Rise. To those you can also add Neil D. A. Stewart’s The Glasgow Coma Scale, a novel which, like all of the above, avoids the common clichés which surround, and for some still define, the city.
Alasdair Gray famously stated in Lanark, with reference to Glasgow, that, “..if a city hasn’t been used by an artist, not even the inhabitants live there imaginatively.” Gray and his contemporaries James Kelman, Liz Lochhead, Jeff Torrington, Agnes Owens, and later on others such as Louise Welsh, Zoe Strachan, A.L. Kennedy and Ewan Morrison, all used the city well and perhaps we are now seeing their influence coming to fruition. Whatever the reason it seems that how some writers imagine, and re-imagine, Glasgow is no longer the problem it was.