Findlay Napier – Glasgow
For two decades Findlay Napier has called Glasgow home, so it's tempting to call this album a love letter, but it feels as much a travelogue
Findlay Napier knows Glasgow like the back of his hand. For two decades he's called the place his home, a regular on the city's music scene, closely involved in Celtic Connections and the founder of the Glasgow Songwriting Festival; on this new record that history is channelled precisely and expertly.
It's tempting to call Glasgow a love letter, but it feels as much a travelogue – from the Necropolis to Marchtown, to defunct dancehalls on Sauchiehall Street to fights outside Celtic Park. Findlay is a storyteller, his songs are driven by narratives and characters, by humour as much as by pathos. Album opener, Young Goths in the Necropolis, shimmers with wit, not dissimilar to something that might crop up on a Mountain Goats album – not just for the reverence given to those keen on heavy metal. The Locarno, Sauchiehall St 1928 too has some hilarious turns of phrase, whilst at the same time sounding like an old crooner standard.
The album is about half-and-half originals and covers, a tribute to the breadth of Glasgow's songwriting lineage – The Blue Nile, Michael Marra, and Emma Pollock all feature, but it's the version of Hamish Imlach's Cod Liver Oil and the Orange Juice that ends up being one of the highlights. Napier snarls and cackles out the thick slang, and by the time we're at the end of the story, you wish you had a pint of something.
Putting a cover song on an album feels a brave move – putting more than one on, braver still – but Napier's skill as an interpreter of material is equal to that of his songwriting. He knows exactly how each one should be sung, and once swept into the sound of the album, it's hard to pick out which is which. Glasgow has been fertile ground for Napier over the past two decades, this record is more than adequate repayment.
Listen to: Young Goths in the Necropolis, Cod Liver Oil and the Orange Juice