Tag Archives: Edinburgh music

In the spotlight – Small Town Boredom

Whilst not in the least way recommended as something to kick-start a party, Paisley based Small Town Boredom create the kind of music you immerse yourself in completely and experience on your own, preferably with a glass of whisky in your hand, possibly nursing a broken heart. Interruptions are not welcome. Sign on the door: Do Not Disturb.

Originally formed in 2001 by Fraser McGowan and Colin Morrison, their 2007 vinyl only release ‘Autumn Might Have Hope’ was an album so delicate in sound you find yourself taking extra care when placing it on the turntable, for fear it may fracture and all will be lost. Whilst barely rising above a whisper at any point, the impact is all the more profound for it. The overall feel is involving and introspective. As the band themselves put it, “Honest, if a touch depressing”.

One of Small Town Boredom's rare live performances

One of Small Town Boredom's rare live performances

What followed ‘Autumn Might Have Hope’ was a tour with the likes of Adrian Crawley and Eagleowl. The tour ended in burnout and proved to be the culmination of the sort of unfortunate personal demons that make such artists all the more compelling.

Thankfully, after a period of rest and reflection, STB have produced a new album. As with previous work, ‘Notes from the Infirmary’ has been lovingly made in a Paisley attic, “using computers, 8 tracks and Dictaphones”, with help from Richard Kengen on bass and Gordon Bartholomew on electric guitar.

Both permanent band members work full time as engineers and record in their spare time. “Personally I find making music very therapeutic, I can lose myself for hours each night in recording and mixing, that’s the stuff I enjoy”, says Fraser.

The inevitable fallout from the last tour is an unwillingness to delve too deeply into the music business. As Fraser is keen to point out, “Playing live and promoting what we do I hate, so we don’t do it that much. I think we will keep making music as long as we enjoy the process, if that ever goes I don’t think I would do it anymore”.

Perhaps strangely, for a West coast band, they are much more excited about the music scene in Edinburgh than Glasgow. “There is a lot of great stuff going on in Edinburgh just now. Bands such as Eagleowl, The Kays Lavelle, Withered Hand and The Leg for example, their music has affected me massively”, says Fraser. “I’m really not a big fan of the music scene in Glasgow; I think it’s completely overrated and most of the bands getting hype or press just now bore me”.

The new album continues where ‘Autumn Might Have Hope’ left off, with ‘Void Lighting’ a standout carefully crafted song of love and loss which immediately draws you in to their world with an understated intensity rarely heard since the Nine Inch Nails released ‘Hurt’. ‘World’s Most Unwanted’ dares to raise the tempo, building the vocals to a stunning finale.

Small Town Boredom have created something majestic with ‘Notes from the Infirmary’; a hushed masterpiece. They may not be too keen on promoting themselves, but Scotland has a band to shout about and their music deserves an audience. If this is the result of boredom, then it is time very well spent indeed.

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In the spotlight – Withered Hand

“A triumph of invention over ability” said a review of Dan Willson’s early work with former band Peanut.

Well, no more, as his current incarnation, Withered Hand, starts to grow in stature. After his recent set on BBC 6Music, Withered Hand is hot property.

Now working as a solo singer/songwriter, with a little help from various friends for his live act (including members of Meursault, St. Jude’s Infirmary and eagleowl), Withered Hand has a new EP readied, entitled ‘You’re Not Alone’.

Dan Willson aka Withered Hand

Dan Willson aka Withered Hand

The record has been produced by Kenny Anderson of King Creosote fame and was recorded in a hall in the Fence folk hotbed of Anstruther. “For me, that is one of the biggest rewards of doing this, playing alongside friends and hearing my songs in a new light,” Willson says. The much anticipated debut album, aided by legendary American producer Kramer, is out in September.

At times painfully honest and introspective, Willson’s folk pop style marks him as an artist with a lot to say, and someone who manages to speak with a refreshing intelligence, placing him at the pinnacle of Edinburgh’s live music scene as a true must-see act.

Typically reclusive, fame now seems to be seeking Willson out, whether he wishes it or not. Sometimes talent wins out. Sighted last weekend in an impromptu performance alongside Meursault at the Meadows Festival, affectionately described by the aforementioned band’s lead singer Neil Pennycook as “ramshackle”, few would have realised the recent clamour surrounding the shy looking lad clutching a bag full of Gregg’s pasties, but Dan Willson is not your typical fame-seeking star.

2008’s Religious Songs EP gained Withered Hand wide ranging acclaim, but it was his early DIY records posted on the internet which led to him performing on the same bills as the likes of Frightened Rabbit, James Yorkston and Malcolm Middleton.

Based in Edinburgh for the last 13 years, Willson is quick to proclaim his love for the city, but admits to initially being “terrified of microphones”. Asked why he makes music, he states simply: “Because I can’t really stop. I have tried. It is my way of making sense of being here. I used to draw a lot more and now I write songs. I have to have some kind of creative outlet otherwise I’m hell to be around”.

Willson says that his songs are “really just the sound of somebody who never thought they could ever do this, playing within their limitations. I would describe my songs as just a collection of my thoughts, with melodies that probably occurred to me in the grocery store or cycling home, sung as best I can over a bunch of chords”.

With typical modesty, Willson describes his sound as something which comes from within: “Apart from that it’s all the same twelve notes over and over again, like everything else”.

But it’s really not just like anything else. It is the culmination of one of Scotland’s brightest singer/songwriter’s talents; thoughtful, refreshing and full of insight. The new album promises to be something well worth the wait. You may have problems avoiding Withered Hand in the near future. And quite rightly so.

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