These Mountain Blues

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These Mountain Blues
Black Dust Records

All too-rarely does an album envelop the listener in instant warmth from the first chord.

With its earthy, organic sound, founded on piano and double bass, These Mountain Blues is wholesome, honest and feels like familiar, comforting home ground. It is beautifully produced by McCulloch and Mark Lough, and the whole is a voluminous aerated slab of texture and spaciousness, allowing McCulloch’s songs the breathing space they deserve and in which they flourish. Dave McGowan (upright bass, pedal steel and piano), Stuart Kidd on drums and Marco Rea (piano and bass) deserve huge credit for creating a soundscape empathetic to McCulloch’s songs and performances, never better than on the bass and snare-propelled ‘Pass By My Door’.

Structurally, the contents of These Mountain Blues delightfully marry folk and country, although the marvellous hook of ‘Hard To Be The Man You Are Not’ would not be out of place on an FM radio playlist. Vocally, McCulloch’s delivery recalls Son Volt, with natural welcome Celtic nuances, reminiscent of Dick Gaughan, an additional shade of Caledonian colour.

Plaintive, careworn and world-weary may describe McCulloch’s delivery, but there is an almost contradictory sense of uplift from his articulation. This ranges from the wholly-believable tones of ‘Black Dust’, heavy with resigned frustration at the historical hardship of miners, wrung out over evocative blues harmonica and insistent guitar, to ‘New Joke’, enhanced by emotional pedal steel, and ‘Cloudberry’, driven by tumbling, emphatic double bass in fine counterpoint to an insistent acoustic strum accompaniment.

The world is a better place for the release of These Mountain Blues.

Date added: Feb 03, 2016

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