Monday 5 January 2015


CD Review

VIP Very Interesting Persons

Scottish singer/songwriter Findlay Napier has come up with a simple but cool concept for an album - to put together a collection of songs inspired by famous and infamous individuals, the very interesting persons of the title.

Findlay Napier
With this album you not only get the music but you get the bonus of potted biographies and storytelling through the songs.
When you hear Napier, who has been around in some form since 2003, open with Hedy Lamarr which is about the Hollywood actress who was also an inventor, it's striking how much he sounds like fellow countryman Kris Drever.
The soft country-style ballad tells of people only seeing the film star but there was so much more to her.
She was recruited by the military and devised a method of frequency hopping which was later used as the basis for Wi-fi and Bluetooth. George C Parker was a rogue of the first order. His stock in trade was selling off famous landmarks in New York most notably Brooklyn Bridge, which he offloaded several times to unsuspecting migrants. Among his other questionable deals were Madison Square Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grant's Tomb and the Statue of Liberty.
George C Parker
Napier has put a much stronger beat to The Man Who Sold New York and sings with a grittier voice keeping the rhythm with his strong guitar strumming which is under-girded by electric blues.
Most people, even  this side of The Pond have heard of baseball legend Micky Mantle who is a home boy hero to many fans of the diamond.
Napier's gentle ballad does have a nostalgic edge and sounds like it could easily have been lifted from a biopic film of the great man. It does have that yearning for simpler days which was captured so perfectly in Field of Dreams.
Perhaps the most poignant tune on the album is the wonderfully evocative story of Eddie Banjo. The incredible thing is that most towns and cities have an Eddie Banjo, who was actually Teddy Banjo - Napier misheard his father talking about him.
Banjo is one of those down and outs who everyone dismisses and tries to avoid, without really getting to know how that person got to be the way they are.
This particular vagrant was a WWII veteran who suffered shell shock and only played one tune on his strings.
Napier tells his story wonderfully in his song and the only thing missing on the track is the sound of a banjo.
The most countrified song on the album is What A Shame About George which is appropriate considering he was a country singer. George Jones (The Possum) only died in 2013 and is famous for international hits such as the rock 'n' roll number White Lightning.
It's a genuine tribute which was written by Napier and Boo Herwerdine, who co-produced the album, only days after the singer died. The soft ballad is as country as it.
Rising Sun is a story which was a staple of the tabloids and national press in the 70s and which was, for once, based on fact.
Hiroo Onoda was famously fighting the Second World War right up until 1974 and Napier tells his story with a lilting and slightly haunting ballad which is accented beautifully by the flute of Gustaf Ljunggren and marimba of Hewerdine.
This is followed by Sweet Science, a wonderfully spooky tale from the world of boxing told brilliantly by Napier. The mixed guitar work and lap steel sound is perfect.
Of all the fascinating characters Napier has collected here Valentina is perhaps top of the list. Again another gentle ballad telling the story of the first woman in space and more than any other tracks it shows what a great musical storyteller Napier is.
The witty Herge like illustrations
 are the work of Chris Baldie
Sport of Kings is a jaunty blues-style song which is inspired by the rake, Sir Henry Cecil who, putting it mildly, led a colourful life.
Napier has an almost admiring playful tone to his singing on this tribute.
The final track on this really quite cool album is inspired by James Crawford Angel better known as Jimmie. He was a war pilot who is credited with discovering Angel Falls, Venezuela. Of course the native Venezuelans already knew of them but he is the pilot who gave his name to the breath taking natural feature as far as the rest of the world is concerned. That is the basis for Angel Falls.
This is another simple ballad carried along with precise guitar picking and like all the tracks relies on the strength of the stories but that's not to say that the music is in any way inferior, far from it.  VIP shows Napier's fascination with people, their achievements and their flaws.
This is what so many folk songs are made of, they put into words and music the extraordinary events involving ordinary people and Napier does an excellent job bringing together what is essentially a musical storybook.

VIP: Very Interesting People is released on January 12 through Shellshock and will be officially launched on January 17 at Celtic Connections.

The Mike Harding Folk Show

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