Euan Drysdale's first album of original songs is a fitting showcase for the Bathgate multi-instrumentalist's skilled musicianship and well-developed songwriting ability. After studying trumpet at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Drysdale has established himself as a guitarist and pianist in the rock and blues world, as well as continuing to perform on the traditional Scottish music scene. On Songs From The Boarwood, he presents an outstanding, genre-defying set of his own original songs, expertly arranged and performed.
As on his previous album, A Parcel of Rogues, a fine set of interpretations of Robert Burns songs, Drysdale contributes all vocals, guitars, bass and piano, bringing in BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra fiddler Alastair Savage and former Capercaillie percussionist Wilf Taylor who combine to create a distinctive acoustic backdrop to the album. Mark Freegard's production is clear, crisp and unobtrusive throughout.
The overall lyrical feel of the songs is a strongly personal one, but none the worse for that. As Drysdale explains "The themes come from a desire to look at my story - where I'd come from and where I've travelled through. (The songs) touch on the universal issues of roots, friendships, families and life's journeys". It's an all too rare pleasure to hear a set of songs that work so well not only as vehicles for some strong musical performances, but which also stand alone as fine examples of the writer's craft.
The standout track by far for me is Dark Moon, a veritable 'Both Sides the Tweed' of a song as on the one hand it channels the very Englishness of Nick Drake in its moody feel and almost primitive structure, while on the other there are strong echoes of fellow Scot Roddy Woomble in Drysdale's dour yet expressive vocal delivery.
But there are other gems here too. Steelyard Blues stretches the twelve bar formula to the limits of its flexibility, with some neat riffage and searing guitar to boot. In contrast Have Not Loved Enough is a song of introspection and regret, a lovely solo voice and piano piece, as is the superb emotion-filled album closer The Last Grey Of The Evening, in which the singer rages against the dying of the light.
Songs From The Boarwood is a sublime collection, at times thoughtful, at others uplifting. A worthy addition to the ever-growing, improving and diversifying Scottish singer-songwriter oeuvre.
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