Everything Is Fine (Until It's Not) (LOST WASP RECORDS, 2014, CD)
Alan McClure is a man to watch. A 36 year-old from south-west Scotland, he first crossed my radar as lead singer and chief songwriter to quirky combo The Razorbills. Now he arrives with a solo album, confirming his status as a profoundly interesting writer.
Here he’s backed by The Mountain Sound Session. According to the press release, they “comprise some of Hull’s finest musicians”, and I’m inclined to believe it. Most of the songs sit on a bed of sensitive two-guitar arrangements, McClure’s own fingerpicking blending with Dave Gawthorpe’s classical guitar. The arrangements never overwhelm the voice.
As ever, McClure’s lyrics take you to unexpected places. ‘Ugandan Sun’ remoulds a folk motif about forbidden love, complete with recurring refrain line, to skewer the state-sponsored homophobia of a certain African nation. The title track is full of his trademark verbal dexterity: statements are advanced, qualified, withdrawn, forcing you to attend to what the man’s saying. But he does easy tunefulness as well. ‘The Notion’ has a relaxed Laurel Canyon vibe, harking back like much of his music to the 1960s, while ‘Rant’ ironically updates Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land Is Your Land’ to the context of Glasgow dockyards and the ‘empty Highland’.
First published in R2 (Rock’n’Reel).