Review – Findlay Napier – It Is What It Is

One of Scotland’s finest singer- songwriters, Findlay Napier has been described as Michael Marra meets Elvis Costello, a Caledonian Loudon Wainwright III or a Scottish James Taylor. His songs are full of earthy humour, hopeless love and biting satire.

To top it all, Findlay is also a really nice guy, I spent a brilliant afternoon in his company in a bar in Glasgow in December 2017, talking all things music and running (we both like a pootle now and again!).

‘It Is What It Is‘, his fourth album, was recorded and mixed at Gran’s House studio with Angus Lyon and Chris Waite. It also features a plethora of incredible people from the folk scene, including co-writes by Boo Hewerdine (The Bible / Eddi Reader), and features BBC Radio 2 Award winning singer songwriter Megan Henwood, Juno Award and Polaris Music Prize Nominee Terra Lightfoot, alongside Louis Abbott (Admiral Fallow), Euan Burton (Beth Nielson Chapman/Kris Drever), Gustaf Ljunggren, Donna Maciocia and Gillian Frame.

Findlay says of the album, “I hadn’t intended to make an album. It was an accident. Producer and pianist Angus thought it might be fun for us to record for a day when the first lockdown ended. I thought two days would be more fun. By the end of those two days, we’d completed eight songs. In all, we drew from around 35 songs I had in notebooks and on my phone, with Angus editing them down to the 12 we have here”.

Findlay continues, “The album sounded great as it was, but we wondered what it would be like with a band. Louis Abbott (Admiral Fallow) had set up a drum studio in his attic, and Euan Burton (Beth Nielson Chapman / Kris Drever) was doing incredible things on electric and double bass from his spare room. Donna Maciocia and Megan Henwood were able to record backing vocals from home, while my wife Gillian Frame was in the studio with me and layered up strings in one afternoon. The phenomenal Canadian singer-songwriter Terra Lightfoot sent us the guitar we needed for the song “American Promise American Lies”, and Gustaf Ljunggren (who played on my VIP album) sent a slide guitar solo along with brass parts because he felt it needed brass. He was right.”

There’s a down to earth honesty about every song that Findlay produces, his music talks about everyday life with pathos and humour and an obvious love. ‘It Is What It Is’ has an intimacy at its core, this is a musician who believes in the ethos of less is more with a passion. Take the opening title track, a piano and Fin’s heavenly Caledonian burr are all that’s needed to convey a beautifully emotive piece of music. The music on this perfectly formed release transports you to a world of simplicity, a world of black and white where wonderfully nostalgic, sepia toned wistfulness is at the heart of everything.

The brass infused brilliance of Piece of my Heart with its delightful slide guitar is a highlight as is the exquisite pared back beauty of Under the Moon. Findlay Napier is a rarity these days, a proper, old school story teller, descended from the travelling bards of old. Take the inspired Americana of American Promise American Lies, a lesson in how to deliver a sublime piece of music with intelligence and dark humour.

Findlay’s talents seem to have no limits, the gorgeous, melancholy tinged Slip of the Tongue and the tongue in cheek whimsy of La La La Song just ooze warmth and affection. The art of songwriting is given short shrift in many areas of the musical press nowadays with a propensity for throw away music that easily pleases and it is a crying shame when you can hear the emotive and touching sombreness of White Collar Criminal, the delicate, reflective musings of Madison Avenue Worry Lines and the neo-noir feel of What’s The Bets, that could have been performed in a 1930’s speakeasy. Gates of Eden is just sublime in its gorgeous simplicity and Last to Leave closes the album with a loving farewell, a clink of whiskey filled glasses and a warm embrace.

A new album from Findlay Napier is always an event, brilliant songs with a great narrative and music that stirs the soul and invites the listener in. ‘It Is What It Is’ sees this fine musician and songwriter on a higher plane and is a must buy for anyone who appreciates and treasures original music with heart and soul. Album of the year? I don’t see why not!

Released 1st October, 2021

Order from The Bothy Society here:

Findlay Napier Archives – The Bothy Society

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