By Scott Wainwright
Scott Wainwright's musical fecundity far outstrips my written output. He's gigging regularly and already well into sorting his next release out while here I am writing about the last one. His latest long-player came out in February. Frankly, the fact I'm only telling you about it now says a lot more about me than the music.
Scott's back catalogue reveals an artist at his happiest when switching between genres and 'Strangers here' is no exception to this playful experimentation. I've nattered to Scott about music a few times online and the influences he cites are as eclectic as you can imagine. The reward of a musicophilic life is a diversity crafted by passion each time he gathers songs together for release. It must also mean enlisting support from equally talented artists is less of a headache too because there's no shortage of superb guest spots here.
Normally I view the #tags at the bottom of a Bandcamp page with suspicion. Artists often namecheck countless genres to reach a wider audience and then the description bears no relation to what you actually hear. Refreshingly though, when Scott says you'll hear gospel, alternative hip hop, country blues & folk in his music; you will. Blues are at the heart of things but these blends and tangents steer Scott away from any one defining style. Four carefully placed instrumentals showcase a tender warmth as do the duets with Lisa Marie Glover ('Noah's Blues'...just wow!). These, juxtaposed with gumbo romps and traditional blues, cook up a sonic jambalaya layered with flavour on what is - for me anyway - Scott's best album to date.
I'll avoid a track-by-track run through but when I try and pick out highlights I find myself wanting to talk about almost every track in more detail. The strongest of the instrumentals is a coin-toss between opener 'America she speaks to me' and 'Strangers here'. The former's a dreamy and utterly beautiful welcome to Scott's world that puts me in mind of Ry Cooder's 'Paris, Texas' soundtrack. I crave music which lifts me to another place and the opening minute of this finds me sat atop a rock somewhere dusty and isolated. 'Strangers here' appeals to me differently. A tune of two halves; the opening minute or so is heartfelt and pensive and then, as the tempo and playing builds, the character of the tune changes dramatically.
There are some proper toe-tapping moments of playful fun too. 'Down the line' bounces along with harmonica and beatbox (oddly I don't find myself writing that sentence too often) and the whole thing just makes me do a big smile. There is a dash of vintage Beefheart at play here, mixed in with Stump's 'Charlton Heston' perhaps but it's probably the hammertime and pumpupthevolume shout-outs you'll hear first. That doesn't matter though - just enjoy the ride. 'Wash me clean' rumbles in with an ageless quality and the bass (played by Spirit of John's Adam Richard) matches the bounce of Cassius C Langhorne's jaw harp brilliantly. For production quality alone and the ageless quality it fosters, this is one heck of a song.
Trying desperately not to revert to a walk-through tour of the tracks I do just have to tell you about one more song before I sign off. Mostly because I have a real soft spot for it. Somewhere in 'Someday I won't feel strange' Scott manages to simultaneously channel indie-folkers The Tansads (well worth a look-up) and Norman Greenbaum's 'Spirit in the sky'. With the help of the rather brilliant Full Life Gospel Choir this one builds from bluesy standard to duet and then to ballsy singalong in less than five minutes. Not bad going eh?
Anyway. Have to end this somewhere so it may as well be here. Give this one a blast. Definitely Scott's best collection to date and something in there for every ear. 'Strangers Here', released on SAW Music, is available to download on Bandcamp. Get your download, cd or limited edition blue cassette for less than the going rate of a couple of ales here: www.sawmusic1.bandcamp.com/album/strangers-here