These Mountain Blues
Black Dust Records
Soul Searching Songs from the Heartworn Highway.
So much has happened in the last 9 months that I genuinely thought I had reviewed this album back in January prior to release; but somehow it didn’t actually get written; even though I thoroughly enjoyed it at the time.
Opening song; Calico Days stopped me in my tracks as soon as I heard it. McCulloch’s rick voice is certainly Scottish in origin; but his way with words he creates is timeless and truly International.
While I’m no hipster who believes ‘vinyl is best’ there is something special in the sound McCulloch and friends has created by recording this album over three days direct to analogue tape in a 15th Century House in the historic city of Stirling. Perhaps its the romantic in me; but the sparseness of songs like New Joke and When She is Crying Too, that lets the words breathe in a way that many other singers can never achieve.
The Scottish music scene has always been slightly incestuous with musicians from all walks gathering on friends recordings; and that’s what Norrie has done, surrounding himself with the cream of the Indie scene to give these Americana/Country-Folk songs an added edge that gives the beautiful words to Hard To Be The Man That You are Not and Pass By My Door an added warm glow.
The core of this album was written on a road trip from Austin to Nashville; and it’s to McCulloch’s credit that he has taken those experiences and created the extraordinarily marvelous title track These Mountain Blues; a Folk song that transcends boundaries and borders in a way that I’ve not heard since Tom Paxton, Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt were in their prime many years ago.
Speaking of TVZ, McCulloch made a pilgrimage to the great man’s grave side on that trip; and while there got the inspiration to finish a song about his Ayrshire coal-mining Grandfather, he had started some years previously.
As the son of a coal miner myself; Black Dust and the haunting harmonica intro makes me misty eyed every time I hear it; and as I write today it’s even more poignant as it’s the funeral of the popular Durham Coal Miners leader Davey Hopper whom the song could actually be about; or indeed my own Dad or…..
The ‘Country’ feel here is never overplayed; with the guitars and pedal-steel used to compliment McCulloch’s subtle lyrics, with Pass By My Door being a prime example, and a song that I still can’t get out of my head 9 months after first hearing it.
Norrie McCulloch is the ‘real deal;’ a singer-songwriter who happens to come from Scotland but ‘gets’ Country Music in the way I’ve really only heard from Canadian acts over the years; and this album is as good as any of them; and some of those albums have been truly excellent.
Released February 2016