All of us should really get out more shouldn’t we? Take me for example, if I hadn’t gone down to Clark’s (no relation) last Thursday I wouldn’t have enjoyed the company of Colin Clyne and The Carrons and their gregarious blend of folk, country and Americana. They make the sort of music that rewards explorer-type music lovers who grit their teeth, turn the telly off and dare to go out on a weekday night.
Colin Clyne is a son of the North-East who left his home in Stonehaven to do a bit of voyaging himself, and it took him to San Diego where he spent ten years earning his songwriter spurs. Now he’s back amongst his ain folk, with a couple of albums notched into the neck of his guitar and a touring band that turns up on time, ready to roll from the first 1-2-3-4.
The music really is like that too. It’s straight-up melodic country-rock with a twist of folk and a dash of Americana in all the right places, and Clyne doesn’t hang about getting the message across. His songs are lyrically direct and full of plain speaking, as you might expect from someone who produced an album called Doricana, and the writing tips a broad-brimmed hat to many a country gentleman. But Clyne ably demonstrates that assuming an accent doesn’t mean sacrificing your own voice.
Tunes like I’d Rather Do, Playing God, Good For Something and The Merry Go Round constitute a pretty unequivocal riposte to the suggestion that country-rock is an historical artifact that belongs in the Guardian’s burgeoning archive of un-hip art forms. People still like a good tune, a boot-scootin’ stomping beat and blue-collar sentiments expressed in words that you can actually hear.
Nevertheless, Clyne has clearly sprung from a singer/songwriter tradition that fully values the folk club ethos of engaging listeners on an emotional level, and a significant proportion of the set is given over to mid-tempo ballads and and an extended solo spot of more intimate songs. Pain of the Mississippi Queen and Into My Garden are especially strong in terms of poignant narrative, and they hint at the descriptive tendencies of the natural storyteller.
If Colin Clyne’s point of musical crossover is anywhere, then it’s where home tugs at the heart at the same time that the head is eager to drink up the world. That places him in greater proximity to songwriters like the late and much-mourned Alan Hull than anyone across the pond. This convergence is interesting because so much time has passed since the days when everyone was singing Fog on the Tyne that there can’t be any direct connectivity other than shared experiences and observations.
The band do the songs justice and offer the right level of support, with volume where it’s needed and colour where its appropriate. At his side, is the popular Gary Anderson, well-known on the circuit as a bandsman and solo performer in his own right. He is a perfect foil for Clyne as a wise-cracking wing-man who keeps his leader on the right side of introspection. Songs like Toast The Happy Times are clearly autobiographical and deeply felt, but they are also meant to be enjoyed. Anderson’s musicianship and down-to earth stagecraft serve to keep the energy levels up and give Clyne room to express himself vocally without straining the point.
Colin Clyne and the Carrons are in play at a particularly rich time for roots orientated music, and he brings a timely touch of authentic Aberdeenshire-ness into a Scottish music scene that, at times, threatens to concede too much ground to generic Braveheart yelling. He’s also delivered a well of good songs on Doricana and The Never Ending Pageant that suggest his productive mind will yield even more.
Michael S. Clark
22nd June 2015