Link to Living Tradition Homepage





FINDLAY NAPIER - VIP Very Interesting Persons

FINDLAY NAPIER - VIP Very Interesting Persons
Cheerygroove Records CHEERY002

Findlay Napier's name first briefly flashed into my consciousness somewhere in the early noughties with the band Back Of The Moon. And in truth, it is in the back of my mind where his name has stayed all these years since, despite him paying his dues and doing all the hard yards

Why? Well, perhaps this is less a reflection on him than on me, for in truth there are so many demands on one's time, that one cannot be au courant with every artiste on the Folk circuit.

And perhaps the very fact that one is not a paid-up member of his fan club, is a good thing for any reviewer. It helps the review be objective, and not a puff job.

So, preamble over, where do I begin? Well let me start by saying that this unusual album is a collaboration with Boo Hewerdine, and nine of the ten tracks are co-written. Boo also produced the CD. The one reference to an outside writer is the snatch of You Are My Sunshine woven into their song Eddie Banjo (track 4). I note they attribute it to [Governor] Jimmie Davis, which is technically correct, but whenever I see it written down, it doesn't half get my dander up, when I consider how he bought the copyright for a pittance from the down-on-his luck and impecunious writer, Paul Rice.

I started the last paragraph by calling the album “unusual”. It is that alright. For it is an album based around a splendid idea: one that I would like to see more artistes using as a basis for albums of their own songs.

Napier and Hewerdine take ten people – some of them famous – and write ten songs about them. Gee, that does not half make a refreshing change from ten songs about contemplating one's navel slumped with one's guitar in a bed sitting room (!!) which has been a recurring theme of lots of indie albums that have come my way the last 30 years.

The songs we get here, are in truth, a bit of a mixed bag. But some really stand out. Is it a coincidence that the two I liked most were songs written about heroes of mine: one from my youth when I first became aware of baseball – Mickey Mantle - and the other, a lifetime hero, the late great George Jones?

When I first went to Manhattan, I made a beeline for Mickey's restaurant: I had more sense than go looking for George in that huge country, as there'd be a fair chance that “No Show Jones” would fail to appear at his gig!

But for sure, the Mantle song – An Idol In Decline – and the George Jones one – What A Shame About George – are the standout cuts. The latter just shading it in a photo finish. There's a couplet from that song that won't stop resonating in my head: When you're given that voice/You don't have the choice. It sums up the moth-to-a-flame inevitability of George's choice of profession.

But, if I pick out those two numbers, please do not think that some of the other songs are duds. They are not. Subjects range from actress/inventor Hedy Lamarr to first-woman-in-space Valentina Tereshkova, and contain the occasional fascinating bit of esoteric information. Who would have thought, for instance, that the famous Angel Falls in Venezuela were only discovered to the outside world in 1933?! I certainly had no idea.

The quality of the performances are uniformly superb. These two guys have a clear synergy, lovely arrangements and beautiful musicianship, aided by stellar work from artistes too numerous to mention, though multi-instrumentalist Gustaf Ljunggren, just has to get a name check.

The main vocals are always by Findlay, so it is only right that we call this a debut solo album. And guess who this album most reminded me of?

Well, not the late Michael Marra, whose name one usually sees in conjunction with Mr Napier. No, I go back to Dec 5th 1970, when I was privileged to see on the same small stage in London, Archie Fisher, the young Barbara Dickson, and an even younger Rab Noakes. And the young boy from the Kingdom of Fife was the one from that holy trinity that most bowled me over. I remember thinking the world was Rab’s to conquer.

And I know that there is a long distance (accent-wise) between Findlay's boyhood Grantown-on-Spey and Rab's Glenrothes, but trust me, it is Rab's voice I am hearing, when I play this album.

And I hope that Rab fans will not be too hard on me when I say that with Very Interesting Persons, Findlay has given us an album that we had always hoped for with Rab, but alas Rab never quite managed to pull off, despite his considerable talent.

Dai Woosnam

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 105 of The Living Tradition magazine.