Adam Beattie (from the album Somewhere Round the Bend available as a self-release) (by Chris Wheatley)
Scottish singer/songwriter, guitarist Adam Beattie is what you might call an artist out of his time. Harking back to the days when independently-minded musicians made careers out of well-crafted, thoughtful songs which borrowed from multiple genres yet retained a core sound of their own. In truth such artists have never gone away. It is simply that these days it is much quicker and easier to follow another path. Nevertheless, four albums into a critically well-received career, Beattie (who also records and performs as part of the excellent Band of Burns) is back with Somewhere Round The Bend, a collection of twelve new compositions featuring Adam Beattie and a full cast of guests; Fred Thomas (bass), Fiona Bevan (vocals) and a host of others lend their talents.
Opener and title-track “Somewhere Round the Bend” glides us into the album; a warm, quirky, Jazzy narrative-song full of fuzzy guitars, spiky lines, rolling percussion, and ghostly sparks. It is a lovely, idiosyncratic piece which successfully marries acoustic instrumentations to sweeping synths, keyboard chords and bubbles of electronica. Others may have been down this road before, but Adam Beattie weaves his spell with such aplomb that this track alone warrants repeated listens. It's something of a shock to emerge into “A Thousand Roads” with its delicate acoustic guitar, gentle percussion and soft, pastoral colours. Beattie's writing is never less than interesting and his compositional skills are wonderful. Violin laments and shuffling bells rub shoulders with ringing electric guitar and subtle slides. A word on the vocals: Beattie's voice has something of the Folk-quality of Pete Seeger or Ewan MacColl. There's a soft edge to Adam Beattie's singing, however, and an easy warmth which only the hardest of hearts could fail to be moved by.
“Stripped to the Bone”, which opens with a quick snatch of ambient street-sounds, sways like the sea, full of ominous chords and reverberating runs. ‘Bombs fell on your house, wiped out the whole street, you grabbed what you can, you're out on your feet’ sings Beattie, who is never afraid to tackle a difficult subject. Indeed, the breadth and pathos of his work are two of his greatest strengths. “Grottammare”, for instance, propelled by accordion, brass and lovely harmonies, takes us for an enjoyable jaunt into Bavarian/Gallic territory, before fading out unexpectedly. More street ambience greets the start of “Sickle Red Moon” as tender a love song as you could wish for. Adam Beattie's works never lack for invention. Even this relatively simple piece comes replete with plucked strings (mandolin?), violin, jazzy brass and tinkling piano. It is a beguiling track, one to float away on but it also packed with fascinating codas which will have you pressing 'repeat'.
“To Conquer the Heart” hops like a sparrow. Over a sparse and fragile, yet compelling, framework, ‘I wanted to make every woman love me, I wanted to never again gaze longingly’ sings Beattie wistfully. An almost perfect blend of Folk, Jazz, and Orchestral sounds. The bombastic “Bad Man” rumbles down a lost Americana woodland path, summoning visions of travelling circuses and femme fatales. With everything that Adam Beattie produces, however, there is always a wry humour and love. “All the Gods” sees us out; a soft, shimmering, low-key number which, with its emotional pull, stirring harmonies, lyrics of depth and spider's-web silk intricacy, is a wonderful representation of the album as a whole.
I can unreservedly recommend your spending some time with this record.
Listen and buy the music of Adam Beattie from Bandcamp
For more info, check out the Adam Beattie website