Released in America last year to some acclaim, Scotty Alan’s new solo album has recently received its UK release and this former punk rocker from Upper Peninsula, Michigan will, I’m sure, be making friends over here on the back of it. Marrying a country/folk vibe to a punkish energy, these fifteen songs chart the progress of a relationship that didn’t work out. Opening with the “goodbye” song, Scotty winds back to the days when it all looked good, finding along the way that there were always signs that this wasn’t going to work out. He’s sad, he’s confused, but if he’s bitter he only allows himself to express it for comic effect (“next time I fall in love, I’m gonna do it alone”). Rather these songs are written in the spirit of the chorus to Was it Ever?. “Was it me/was it you/was it there/ was it true/ was it ever” he asks, and the whole cycle of songs is all about investigating how it all happened and how it all went wrong.
Scotty sings in an appealing rasp that sounds remarkably Irish at times – shades of The Pogues or The Waterboys linger unexpectedly, especially when David Lindley’s fiddle playing is to the fore. Scotty’s voice is strong enough and distinctive enough to hold the centre of attention but this is a fully worked out production from Bernie Larsen (it was a bit of a trek from Michigan to LA to get this record made) and there’s a whole host of instrumentation fleshing out Scotty’s songs: organ, accordion, mandolin, slide guitar and piano (from Ian McLagan!) all find their place, and there’s a generous dose of backing vocals to boot. This record sounds best at it’s most upbeat, the old punk still enjoying it best when he can put some bounce into the performance. Your Hero? combines the energy and the folk style nicely (very Waterboys), whilst the most irresistible song is Ain’t Much, its heart-on-his-sleeve charm and rockabilly bounce hanging round just long enough to leave you wanting more. The finest song, though, may be Barn Dance; it’s a long song by his standards but marrying the state of the relationship to the drawing in of winter in Michigan gives the song a broader reach that works really well. David Lindley’s fiddle and the rolling epic nature of the song again strongly invites Waterboys comparisons but I’m not complaining about that. This is truth, honesty and entertainment all wrapped up in one package, and it’s rather good.
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