Following the success of his Mercury nominated album Diamond Mine, Scottish artist King Creosote (aka Kenny Anderson) has returned with a brand new album that reflects on his cultural roots. From Scotland With Love is the accompanying soundtrack to the BBC documentary of the same name, set to be showcased during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The documentary is comprised entirely of archival footage, with Anderson to narrate the images via song. Through his perspective, listeners are transported to a time frame long before the invention of mobile phones and computer technology. Here we have an album that draws on themes of love, loss, friendship and hope – all beneath a backdrop of national pride. It’s an album with subject matters that even Anderson himself has dubbed as “universal”, but also showcases his extensive creative abilities.
The opening track, Something to Believe In, features a sombre accordion introduction which sets a rather tranquil mood to the piece. From there we hear the first strains of Anderson’s vocals, which are soft yet still carry strength. The track showcases the instruments that are featured on the majority of this album, including the keyboard, drums and subtle strings. Cargrill adopts the similar structure of an easy listening track, featuring the vocals of a female backing singer which creates harmonies that well compliment Anderson’s tone. It’s a song about going to battle; the ‘charging’ is beautifully portrayed through the gradual volume of the percussion, yet the atmosphere is tinged with a hint of melancholy due to the haunting strings. The track could be appropriately followed by Miserable Strangers, where Anderson sings about soldiering on through the toughest of times. His voice is full of sorrow as he croons, “I might just get by”; yet the combination of synth keyboards, guitars and strings create a majestic vibe that inspires hope within the listener.
In contrast against these easy listening tracks is Largs, a feel-good song with a vibe that could fit appropriately in a rowdy pub. It’s a refreshing change from the slower tracks; it’s upbeat, exciting and bordering frantic. The highlight of the track is most definitely the clarinet solo, blaring a scalic, jazzy tune that makes you want to get up and dance. The instrumental is so interesting that Anderson’s vocals are bland compared to his accompaniment; this time, it’s the backing track that shines, and Anderson’s voice is almost overshadowed by the excitement of what’s going on around him. For One Night Only is another foot-tapper that slowly builds up the excitement. Each layer of sound is strategically added on until it finally becomes a danceable, exhilarating track. If we can commend one thing on the album, then it’s definitely the creative use of instrumentals and sound.
A track worth mentioning here is Bluebell, Cockleshell, a wonderfully charming track that reflects on his childhood days. The track features an introduction of a children’s choir chanting in a nursery-rhyme manner, accompanied by a clapping beat. It’s a carefree atmosphere that Anderson evokes here; however, dark lyrics such as “bury me in the old church yard beside my only brother” suggest that he is nostalgic for the simplicity and innocence of youth. Another nostalgic piece is Leaf Piece, which is really just a Scottish phrase for ‘a snack’. Here, Anderson fondly refers to Scottish references and croons for his home town, Fife. The strings play a melancholy tune which captures his emotional ties with home, as Anderson connects with his listeners on a more personal, intimate level.
From Scotland With Love is rich in variety, showcasing Anderson’s talents in many different forms. He not only sings the songs; he connects them in a way that allows the listener to gain an insight on a vintage Scotland, an era which seems so far away from what we’re living in today. Anderson’s album reminds us that we ought to never forget one’s cultural history and ideology; and that it’s also worthwhile to take time out and appreciate cultures that’s different to our own.