King Creosote’s latest offering, From Scotland With Love could be met with trepidation; considering the folk maverick’s seemingly endless discography, one could be scared that his approach to music veers to the quantitative rather than qualitative.
The album, written to accompany a short documentary film for the Commonwealth Games relays a quiet and stoic celebration of Scotland and its people, a stark contrast to the unforgettable pomp and ostentation of the opening parade at the games that paid homage to the same thing.
While the documentary images certainly enrich the music, the album is tightly constructed enough to lead its own narrative and guide the listener throughout Scotland, from Largs to Cargill and all the people, strife, love, loss, labour, humour and meanderings that one encounters in between.
Opening track ‘Something to Believe In’ eases the listener in with an accordion laden lament that is typically Cresote-esque in its paradoxical romantic yet stoic sentiment as he repeats (or pleads) the lines “you promised me a feeling/something to believe in.”
It is clear from the onset that Creosote does not indulge in easy nostalgia, ‘Miserable Strangers’ is hardly an ode to the charm of Scottish people, as the song pays tribute to those displaced people either inside or outside of Scotland hoping that they ‘might just get by’ over sorrowful strings, supported by a steady drum beat and female vocals.
‘Hoping’ seems to be the operative word in this album; despite the confidence of the musicianship, the melodies and lyrics are laced with an uncertain but deep-rooted hope, other highlights include ‘Bluebell, Cockleshell 1,2,3’, a song which begins with a chorus of children sweetly singing those very words before the track roams into darker territory, with themes of death at the helm.
‘Largs’ and ‘Cargill’ typically take us to Largs and Cargill and venture past, but don’t ignore, fond childhood experiences of eating ice cream and collecting shells on the beach.
The anthemic penultimate album track ‘Pauper’s Dough’ appeals to action rather than hope, dorning the Oscar Wilde-esque chorus lines “rise above the gutter you are inside”, this full orchestral number, with a full backing chorus could easily foray into cheap chanting but the raw beauty of this song, which nods to social injustice and unflinching need for change is as subtle as the rest of the album.
With the Referendum looming, King Creosote’s From Scotland With Love is a moving and propitious tribute to Scotland, which despite the singer’s leanings could not come at a more timely point.
Words: Anna Paul