Well, it has been some year. We’ve had some good times…well not really good times per se, but I did find a pack of mandolin strings in my sock drawer back in April. if that isn’t a musical high point for a year of lows, then I don’t know what is. Anyhow, it’s not all doom and gloom and before the ruling powers of Giliad, or Westminster to revert to anachronism, lead us into more red, white, and blue soaked crap times, let’s have a look at what’s going on musically.
The music is starting to be picked again by what I would call the glue of grass-roots music; community radio. Special mention goes out to the team at Sunny Govan, and I will leave you with the prospect that maybe, just maybe in the future, and if they let me of course, I will maybe get behind the desk again. Imagine that, a radio show.
To conclude, a couple of pals stick out as shining examples of how to manage music during this time, and I’d like to make special mention of Fiona Liddell and Jack Hinks. The former’s ‘Local Heroes’ list is a ‘go to’ for new Scottish tunes, while the latter’s humorously titled ‘Hot Singles in Your Area’ features an interactive take on the concept of the new release. You might even hear a bit o’ yours truly.
For bookings, info, or my award-winning discount catering service please get in touch. You can find me across the board online, or in person to the right of the gate at Alexandra Park and Cumbernauld Road, my chosen busking location. Come one, come all!
Scotland + Organised religion. To say that this storied double act has had a complicated relationship would be quite the understatement.
A while back, while a’wandering round the dormant volcano that sticks out the middle of Edinburgh, my gran, my girlfriend, and I stumbled across a strange iron contraption stuck to the wall of the local church. Shaped like a snare, with a length of chain to tether it to the kirk’s wall, it begged the question from my better half:
‘What the hell is that?’
Nonchalantly, my gran replied that the unknown piece of masonry attached to the church was in fact a ‘Scold’s Bridle’, a bleak concept in which women who dared to express opinion could be chained up in order to receive a dose of public humiliation; in this case ecclesiastically-sponsored public humiliation.
Here is a typically progressive pamphlet from the time.
Unbelievably, this ritual punishment continued until terrifyingly recently, with the Calvinistic notion of Scottish Presbyterianism fuelling the idea of the submissive women, bound to a life of grisly servitude. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200. Complaints to be addressed c/o the Witchfinder General.
Scotland + Organised religion. To say that this storied double act has had a complicated relationship would be quite the understatement. From the notions of church goers’ ‘come for the service, stay for the torture’, to the mob that destroyed Glasgow cit centre last weekend in the name of a Dutch monarch who died over 300 years ago, I think it would be safe to say that old Caledonia and the praying game has been a pretty volatile combo.
Maybe it was probably better before all this malarkey eh?
There’s always good in pain, that much I have learned
Lyrically the above line spoke to me, a blatant reminder of the wee figure of John Knox that appears on my shoulder every time I consider my path as a musician. My interiorised 16th century clergyman usually hits me at the low points (busking in a downpour, an empty gig venue, a friend’s wedding with loads of graduate trainees) to tell me to get a real job, or that enjoying what you do is fundamentally wrong and sinful or something. Is this just me? Is there more to it? A bigger picture? Should I set up a helpline for artists plagued by a constant feeling of inadequacy and shame due to a deep-rooted history of Calvinistic brainwashing?
Well in the meantime, there’s probably no need, as Jack Hinks’ lyrics sound out the frustrations felt by many:
God damn these eyes, these eyes that prove me blind God damn these eyes, they fail me by design. God damn this mind, this mind that knows me best God damn this time, I’ve pinned it to my chest
God, Jack Hinks
From an artistic point of view, I think Scotland has a really weird relationship with creativity, given that it is arguably one of the most creative nations on earth. The idea that we are blessed with all this talent and ability; the eye to see, the mind to imagine, and the time to do it (especially now!), yet we have this bizarre sense of self-discipline and fundamental shame, is a really Scottish concept. Like having an abundance of something great but not being able to really use it properly, a bit like trying to play Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney in the same starting XI.
I might be miles off the mark here, my music writing usually is, but that’s what I got out of Jack Hinks’ latest piece.
I ask God what they mean She says they’re both the same I say you’re no god to me.
God, Jack Hinks
Great lyrics, god as ‘she’ too, ace. Get those words sent to the Church of Scotland General Assembly laddie! See what they make of them! Turns of phrase that once may have left the author chained up outside the wee church by Arthur’s Seat, but now represent a move away from the superstition and pointless discipline of the path towards a more progressive future perhaps.
I eagerly await the next instalment of the song cycle.
Hold up. I set out to write this blog to avoid just spinning out the same clichés of music writing worldwide. ‘Dark, broody, full of soul and body’ could describe anything from Oscar nominations, to craft beer, to a fucking Audi commercial. So let’s steer clear of that pish.
I’ve committed the blogger’s cardinal sin; not posting for a while. So many great blogs lie in stasis, or worse, in the hellish limbo of having no recognised domain. Derelict and directionless, these former fountains of opinion, ill-informed or otherwise, now lie at the mercy of the cruel Internet, an online society that devours content at an alarming rate.
Well, that’s a cheery picture of the future, but here at Scotland’s #586 most popular music blog I say:
As for spending your life doing something you despise. Well for any born and bred millenial, the line isn’t so much a statement of fact, but a mantra.
I was thinking back to primary school the other day, a bunch of annoying wee pricks crammed into a hall and forced to sing along to songs that were supposed to be non-denominational, but usually featured some kind of bigging up of the Bible etc. There was the usual turgid fair of musical parables of some of the Old Testaments’s greatest hits (Jonah, Noah) plus a smattering of so-called ‘new religiously-themed tunes’. Whichever vacuous, loveless human, void of all imagination could come up with such guff music as ‘He’s got the whole world in his hands’ or ‘Think of a world without…’, will one day reap the collected ire of a generation.
In writing about music, and the music scene I always come back to my base belief that community movements in music trump 21st century individualism time after time. Carolyn’s genuine passion to propagate and support the musicians featured on the page is a perfect example of how working together with passion can create a sustainable side to grass-roots music.
It’s a testament to the times that we live in that the only time I hear music in a public space is when I go to Morrison’s. I would listen to the piped shop radio station, replete with various 80s hits, usually upbeat pish like Wham! and Cindi Lauper, lest something more pensive should make you consider shopping less or something.
In any case wasn’t expecting Joy Division or Mudhoney to accompany the buying of suspiciously cheap pineapples. This experience of hurried, masked, panicked, musical consumption, limited to aisles of beans or biscuits, is in my opinion quite representative of our musical dystopia; indeed from capitalism’s point of view, using music as a lure to keep consuming has been a depressing staple for a while.
I (naively) always thought that in an age of such readily available technology, just throwing together a wee video would be ridiculously easy.
As a musician, plugging my trade in the modern music industry, the importance of a visual presence quickly became evident. Sadly for dinosaurs such as myself, the emphasis on aesthetics has some sort of relevance to most music in this day and age. With this in mind, I reluctantly signed up to Instagram about 3 years ago.
So over to radio. Semantically speaking, the mere idea of ‘radio’ has become so dated that we can barely bring ourselves to refer to it in the vernacular, instead using the medium of podcasts to somehow detract from the fact that the majority of podcasts are, if not ACTUAL shows from the radio, then a segment of talking and/or music within a specified time frame; i.e. a radio show.
I’m in love with the radio on It helps me from being alone late at night Helps me from being lonely late at night I don’t feel so bad now in the car Don’t feel so alone, got the radio on
Roadrunner – Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers
I always drone on about this musical utopia, one in which all aspects of making, writing, performing, reproducing, listening, and talking about music all exist on this hitherto absent level playing field. The results of which would be a flourishing and sustainable music scene etc etc. If that’s what you want to start your Wednesday by reading about, then you can find that piece here.
For grass-roots musicians in this day and age, when it comes to gaining ‘exposure’ (I hate that word) for the music that you have bled into, sweated over, and torn from your being, the options are certainly more varied than before.
Frankly, I really appreciate an LP that can go from paying homage to one of the defining social movements of the current age to a song about mistakenly drinking a cup a magic mushroom-infused tea. It is a rare ability to offset the relevance of global affairs with the opening of the doors of perception via a psilocybe brew.
Today’s post is brought to you in association with:
Felix and the Sunsets will be familiar to yous from last month’s single ‘This Will Change’, an introspective voyage through the #BLM protests in Scotland last year. You can listen to that here. It’s pretty to the point, and certainly preaches a hopeful message, one in which musicians can still reflect the spirit of the times.
Imagine a world in which music didn’t work as a glorified pyramid scheme, a world in which achievement (and by that I mean the sad common trope of capitalism, money) didn’t create the success apartheid in which the music industry exists at the moment. Imagine if an act of god, say for example, a global health crisis that the neoliberal ne’er-do-wells that control every aspect of our life confronted with world-beating incompetence, aye imagine that came about, yet grass-roots musicians weren’t the first to be cast adrift in a wave of self interest-
I think it would be presumptuous to talk of utopia, insulting even given that what I view as utopian could be quite easily achieved, given the right set of circumstances.
Why selling off musical copyrights makes a terrible situation even worse. Plus, fun with Russian bots.
I haven’t released any music since the 30th of October, 2020. That’s not to say that I haven’t been making music in the intervening time, but in the world of evidence-based existence via social media, it would appear that I have done absolutely nowt since then, musically speaking anyway.
This dearth of social media self-promotion, in addition to a consistently low Spotify listenership (shout out to ye local 142 people worldwide!), means that algorithmically I don’t exist any longer.
In this topsy-turvy world full of inherent contradiction, my lack of ‘being’ on the world wide web would probably lead to even less public interest regarding the music that I have already made, given that I am not promoting anything, or even revisiting back catalogues. I haven’t sent anything to any playlist or radio for a long while, and other than to check the inbox for this here review site, I would have assumed that I would be getting little in terms of direct communication.