Review – Findlay Napier – Glasgow – by Progradar

Music and singing has been used to tell stories for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Those ancient troubadours spread the news of mighty deeds and wars won or lost, crossing mighty oceans and huge deserts to spread the word to the far corners of the earth.

Thankfully for today’s balladeers and poets, the digital age and the internet means their tales of escapism or gritty realism can be on anyone’s hard-drive in seconds and they don’t have to use donkeys and ancient ships to reach their audiences.

Folk music has always been at the core of telling the stories of the man on the street, the fisherman, the steelworker and folk singers have never hidden the darker side of these stories, tales that on-one else would tell, leaving audiences hooked on every word.

My good friend, the excellent musician Iain Sloan introduced me to the music of Scottish folk singer Findlay Napier last year and I still thank him for bringing this brilliant artist to my attention. This October sees the release of Findlay’s ode to his home town Glasgow and a collection of cleverly observed and written songs that reveal his love affair with this most gritty of cities.

There’s no need for fanfare or overindulgence on this album, Findlay’s vocals and guitar are joined on this emotional journey by long time collaborator Boo Hewerdine (high strung guitar, piano) and the delicate voice of Donna Maciocia on backing vocals.

‘Glasgow’ is a whimsical collection of songs from a musician with a quick wit and a ready eye. Findlay has lived in Glasgow for twenty-one years, having been born there originally, and his intimate knowledge shines through.

” I remember the people and their patter. I remember it like the first time I watched Blade Runner. I remember it like the first time I saw Billy Connolly.

Mostly I witnessed Glasgow from afar. On the telly it was a place full of humour: Francie & Josie, Naked Video and Rab C. Nesbitt. Taggart, bookended with Maggie Bell’s ‘No Mean City, was Glasgow’s darker side.”

The delicate guitar and subtle vocals that form Young Goths In The Necropolis are used to give Findlay’s view of the Necropolis and its magnificent views to the west and the daily happenings a nostalgic hue. There’s nothing glamorous about life at the bottom in any cities and the dark humour of Wire Burners tells the tale of how the homeless in Glasgow sell scrap metal from building sites just to stay alive. Findlay’s vocals have a way of keeping you concentrated on the story and taking in every word to build a picture up in your mind. Marchtown (written by Emma Pollock) is an area that Findlay walks through every day and this sentimental song takes you along on that daily journey. It’s a wonderfully romantic song that is touched by more than a hint of melancholy as it looks at the changes that have happened to an area that has hundreds of years of history at its heart. The perfectly judged backing vocals are a particular delight.

The wonderful St Anthony’s Digging a hole is a tribute to the gravediggers of the West of Scotland and is based on a Radio 4 documentary about these essential workers called ‘How To Dig A Grave’ by Cathy Fitzgerald. A beautifully wistful piece of music, it shows how Findlay can take a sombre subject and turn it into such an exquisite piece of music. St Anthony is the patron saint of gravediggers. On Julia Doogan’s wonderfully written and evocative track Glasgow Findlay’s elegant vocal paints a colourful picture of the heart of a City that lives its life around two great football teams and always makes him think of the Old Firm games when he hears it and the busy nights around the city’s many drinking establishments. A vivid and intense folk standard Cod Liver Oil And The Orange Juice, Findlay’s voice uses the guttural dialect perfectly to paint a gaudy picture on a wonderfully raucous pared-back track that just leaves me smiling all the way through. I actually laughed out loud at some of the lines,

“Then oot came her mammy – she was goin’ tae the cludgie, Oh-ho, I buggered of sharpish, Ah-ha, glory hallelujah, Cod liver oil and the orange juice..”

Findlay gives his take on the Blue Nile track A Walk Across The Rooftops, a song that always reminds him of days hanging out between the City Centre and the West End, barbecues, carry outs and late night sing songs in tenement flats. His tender vocal and the elegant guitar reminisce about sepia tinged times between receiving his final exam results and graduating.  There’s a hushed atmosphere about the track, a time when you felt on top of the world, unbreakable even. Never quite a protest song, There’s More To Building Ships is a poignant song that Findlay was moved to write after a conversation about reopening Scotland’s shipyards with his Dad. There’s a bitter sentiment tot he vocals, one that’s echoed by the solemn guitar. A wonderfully written piece of music that sees it as an ultimately futile endeavour, without a long term plan, there’ll never be industry like that again in Glasgow. A whimsical and quirky song, The Locarno, Sauchie Hall Street 1928 is a story about the first Scottish Professional Dancing Championships held in 1928 and won by Alex Warren and Cecilia Bristow. An unhurried, sentimental track, Findlay and Donna’s vocals give it a real warmth and affection along with a maudlin nostalgia.

King Kong’s Visit To Glasgow, written by ‘The Bard of Dundee’, Michael Marra, is about a dream that actress Caroline Paterson had. Her many vivid dreams were recounted to Marra when they were working on a show together at Dundee rep. A chilled, jazzy guitar and Findlay’s bright and breezy vocal give an upbeat feeling to this subtle and engaging song, a track with a real playfulness to it. The surreal lyrics about King Kong wanting to mend his ways and visiting Glasgow are quite genius and Findlay gives it a real engaging air. The final track is about unrequited love in a Glasgow chip shop (yes, really…) and The Blue Lagoon has an air of 30’s music hall to it with Findlay’s tender vocal and the haunting piano of Boo Hewerdine. Once again Donna Maciocia’s graceful backing vocals add anther layer of class to a superbly expressive song.

Some of the best folk music is coming out of Scotland right now. ‘Glasgow’ is a fantastic collection of sentimental and evocative songs imbued with a simple but engaging honesty because, after all, music is storytelling and here Findlay is telling the grandest story of his life.

Album cover and Glasgow street scene by Raymond Depardon, Magnum Photography.

All other photos by Richard Crawford, Precious Productions.

Released 13th October 2017

Buy ‘Glasgow’ direct from bandcamp






Findlay Napier Announces Kickstarter Campaign for New Album – ‘Glasgow’

Scottish Singer-Songwriter Findlay Napier has announced details of his forthcoming new album ‘Glasgow’, which can be ordered now via his Kickstarter campaign.

Findlay describes the project:

“Just before my 18th birthday I moved from the banks of the River Spey to the 14th floor of the Red Road flats in Glasgow. I’d come to study Traditional Scottish Folk Music at what is now The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Twenty years later I want to make an album that reflects on the time I’ve spent in Glasgow making music, hanging out and growing up.

Boo Hewerdine is producing the album and we have already started recording the album in Motherlode Studio, Norfolk. We need your help to finish the recording and release the album.

Glasgow has a rich history of music and, of course, songwriting. From Adam MacNaughton‘s ‘Jeely Piece’ song to The Blue Nile‘s ‘Tinseltown in the Rain’ hundreds of songs have been written about this wonderful city. My new album will contain a mixture of some of my favourite songs, some that I’ve written especially for the project and some co-writes with Boo Hewerdine.

I’ll keep you informed all along the way either through short video blogs, blogs and sneaky listens to works in progress.

Why use Kickstarter? A few reasons for this 1) It is a simple way for you to pre-order the album. Kickstarter is a well known an trusted crowdfunding site. 2) Unless you are signed to a major label it makes more sense for a small independent act like myself to use a crowdfunding platform. 3) It’s fun to have fans involved album making process. 

What are you going to do with my money? All of the money you contribute will go straight into the project. The main areas of spending are: Recording (recording, mixing and mastering), design (Photographs & design) and promotion (Local, National and Online Press plugger and radio plugger… I do the social media stuff myself… as you may have noticed). The final major expense is duplication (‘pressing’ the CD, setting up download, liscensing fees, barcode)…. and then there’s all the little things (travel expenses, tea/coffee/food for the studio, guitar strings etc.) The more money you contribute the more I can do with the album. 


You can check out this this exciting project here:

There are many who find themselves described as stalwarts, some for the rugged determination to keep slogging away and others because they contribute so much to stay actively involved on a whole range of levels, keeping sharp artistically and selflessly championing others who deserve attention.

Findlay Napier is one of the most highly-regarded performers and creative forces on the Scottish music scene – thoroughly active and truly energised with a heart-warming zing.

His last album, ‘VIP: Very Interesting Persons’, contains ten songs about real life characters with interesting lives was co-written and produced by Boo Hewerdine.‘VIP’ was The Telegraph’s #2 Folk Album of the Year 2015 and was Album of the Week in The Daily Express received many excellent reviews. To coincide with his successful 2016 solo tour Napier released an EP containing 5 new VIP songs and a behind the lyrics book.

Findlay, an inaugural graduate of The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland‘s BA(Scottish Music) program, made his name touring and recording with multi-award winning traditional Scottish folk band Back of the Moon.  In his more recent projects “Queen Anne’s Revenge” and “The Bar Room Mountaineers” his song-writing took centre stage and was described by The Sunday Herald as “Genuine songcraft and wit following in the Difford & Tilbrook tradition”. Findlay is also well known as the host of Celtic Connections’ Late Night Sessions and for his Hazy Recollections concert series which showcases the very best in new roots music.

In Feb 2017 Findlay will be touring with ‘Shake the Chains’ a new touring commission of protest songs from Folk by The Oak with support from Arts Council England, Help Musicians UK and Folk Alliance International. The tour features Nancy Kerr, Hannah Martin and Tim Yates with musical director Greg Russell.

Aside from his touring commitments Findlay performs regular Stand-Up Comedy shows around Glasgow.In September he organised and sold out Glasgow Songwriting Festival.