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

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

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The Tracks Of My Year: SWH!’s 10 Best Songs Of 2016…

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Looking back, as is everyone’s wont at this time of year, two things in particular are striking about 2016 in music. There was the continued rise and success of the independent record label, especially Last Night From Glasgow, Song, by Toad, Olive Grove Records and Errant Media, and it was a year of classic albums, from the triumphant return of Teenage FanclubMogwai, King Creosote and Kid Canaveral, through the mostly excellent SAY Award nominees, to those released by the artists below.

These are our choices for the 10 best songs reviewed on these pages this year. 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.

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 2016 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…

Errant Boy – Black Dress, Black Cab

Errant Boy are another who have recently featured on those pages. That’s because we like to be surprised and delighted, and it appears that the ability to do both is in Errants Boy’s DNA. This is their latest single, ‘Black Dress, Black Cab’, and it demands repeated listenings as it takes you to different places every time. The song moves from menace to magic and back again in a single line, with layered acoustics and vocals which seem to pull you in opposite directions. It reminds me of The Woodentops in the sense that what you are listening to is way more complex than you initially believe, and that’s a great thing. I feel I could write a short essay on this song. I’ve been listening to it a lot. Can you tell?

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

star-500x500As William Michael Albert Broad would put it, “It’s hot in the city…tonight”, and there is little doubt that can have an effect on your listening habits. But it’s not all pinky blue skies and sunshine supermen in terms of what’s made the roundup of the best new music from the last month.

There is a reassuring balance between light and shade, which might lead the naive to believe that these roundups were not just thrown together, but were, in fact carefully planned and curated.

First off we have a strong contender for album of the year. Due to such ephemeral matters as questions of personal taste, it may not be your album of the year, but I can guarantee you that when the nights are fair drawing in it will remain one of mine.

Imagine someone writes a collection of poignant and moving songs, then gets some of your favourite singers to sing them, and what you have is the new R.M. Hubbert album Telling The Trees as mentioned in last month’s roundup. For two such records to come along in consecutive months seems like an over withdrawal in the karma bank (we’ll pay, we’ll pay), but that’s what has happened.

Starless, whose self-titled album is out now, is the latest project from ex-Love and Money man Paul McGeechan and has, among others, The Bathers’ Chris Thomson, The Lotus Project’s Marie Claire Lee, Julie Fowlis and Paul Buchanan singing vocals on various tracks, each one of whom are among my favourite singers.

However, the real treat for me is the overdue return of Gwen Stewart, singer in legendary bands such as Wild River Apples and Sugartown, and who is in possession of one of Scotland’s great voices. She sings on the 2.03 minute ‘Yellow Midnight’ and it’s hugely exciting to have her back, if only for a such a short while.  With that line-up, Mr McGeechan is spoiling us, and every one should realise it.

I could have written this month’s roundup on Starless alone, breaking it down track by track, but that’s not what we’re here for, and there is other great music on its way. However, I wanted to get across why this album means so much to me and has touched me so profoundly. It’s not just that as a collection it is reminiscent of Craig Armstrong at his very best. It’s not purely because every track is unforgettable but, when taken together, works towards a much greater whole. It’s not as simple as those singers and the songs, even. It’s because this is the sound of my music – it’s in my bones. Always has been, and always will.

Featuring the heavenly voice of the aforementioned Chris Thomson, this is ‘Misty Nights’, and if it makes you feel as it does me, we’re going to get on just fine:

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