Findlay Napier takes us on a journey. It's a trip round Glasgow. We see life through his eyes as he reflects on remembered and imagined meetings. A series of original songs and carefully chosen covers that paint portraits of life and places in Scotland's city both past and present.
Along the way we connect.
From the opener "Young Goths in the Necropolis" we are transported to a place that binds the life of the dead and those still living. Of Pagan Rites that promise to lead to rites of passage. A deftness of lyric ".. In the freshly sprinkled snow you trampled out a Pentagram….. You summoned all the demons, none of them appeared. Snow melted in the afternoon, the magic disappeared". Those first innocent days when you follow blindly with stumbling steps agreeing to anything. And then that first touch, fingers entwine, the beginning, but of what? In three minutes twelve seconds Findlay has unlocked memories buried deep, different circumstances - similar feelings, a master songwriter involving and binding the listener to the music. It's a skill few have.
Songs are delivered with the minimum of fuss, vocal, two guitars, the occasional piano and backing vocals from Donna Maciocia. The production by Boo Hewerdine, who co-wrote three of the original songs, is spot on, it's kept clean and simple allowing the songs to shine.
"Wire Burners" shines a light on an underbelly of Glasgow that is unknown to most. Homeless people scrabbling to collect metal from building sites to sell to survive. A vocal that expresses resignation and acceptance of life in equal parts. It evokes visions of old movie reels of life dealing with the wreckage of war, sixty years later have we really progressed or do we look the other way and salute with eyes hung low?
Low level urban field recordings link the songs and add a poignancy.
Emma Pollock's "Marchtown" steps back into history and remembers Glasgow's gritty past of battles for Kings and Queens now forgotten, compared with present day Strathbungo. A touch of melancholy, a route walked by Findlay on his daily travels.
No show and tell of Glasgow could ignore the local derby. Blue versus the Green and White, a city divided by belief, a city united by drinking, by nights out and the conclusions they bring. "Glasgow" comes from the pen of Julia Doogan, it is a love song of a city you call home. Julia is also another name I've now added to my list of songwriters to search out.
Nights out is the theme enhanced with Hamish Imlach's wonderfully graphic "Cod Liver Oil And The Orange Juice" a master class in condensing pictures into one liners. The humour and psyche of the locals captured and delivered perfectly in a guttural dialect that has you believing and smiling at the same time.
"There's More to Building Ships" examines the tradition of Shipbuilding on the Clyde, a song originally written for "Shake The Chains" project which I was lucky enough to catch on tour in Derby. A community based view on the sacrifices that went in, the endeavours of the workforce to make it happen and the blame when it all turned turtle. A reflection by Findlay that it would take a monumental effort by all concerned for shipbuilding to return in volume. It fits perfectly with Ellis Costello's epic song which approaches the subject from a different angle.
Entertainment, The Locarno in Sauchiehall Street, we are transported back to 1928 and the first Scottish Professional Dancing Championships. We are there riding the mind of a young hopeful who ruefully looks on before glancing back at her partner, her inward thoughts laid bare "I chose you for your child-like face, your red and rosy cheeks. Now you look like a butcher who's been all at the beef". Disappointment that is wrapped up in warm tones by Findlay and Donna even the infidelity of the winners is overlooked. The Locarno a place to dance to lose yourself and to find romance.
We are treated to an imagined visit of King Kong to Glasgow, surreal lyrics from the Bard of Dundee, Michael Marra, interpreting a dream that actress Caroline Paterson had. Here it is given an light acoustic bluesy, laid back, playful feel. Michael was an exceptional songwriter and it is wonderful that his songs live on through others.
Finally we finish with "The Blue Lagoon" a song of love never to be, of being there and trying to catch the object of your attentions eye. We could be in a cocktail bar or a Speakeasy, it has that pre-war feel, a crooning vocal, a background piano. But this is Glasgow, so it's a chippy and the lass has other fish to fry. Unrequited longings compressed into a song and expanded by our own memories as we examine our own past.
Ultimately "Glasgow" is an album that expresses a love for the city and the people. A city you could call home. Findlay Napier in his words and music does more for tourism than the best Trip Advisor reports could ever achieve.
After his debut release V.I.P.: Very Important Persons I wondered how he could possibly surpass such a start, with "Glasgow" the master craftsman just gets better.
|Cara Dillon: Wanderer||The Barr Brothers: Queens Of The Breakers|
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