- 21 Jun 21
Scotty beams up with quality debut.
This is a noteworthy debut by Glaswegian singer-songwriter Michael McGovern which benefits from the exceptional production and guitar wizardry of Bill Shanley. McGovern himself plays guitars and keyboards to underpin his wide-ranging vocals, with other instruments only added as required.
While there’s a dearth of anything ground-breaking in the 8 all-originals, the sonic and performance levels are impeccable, especially admirable since the album began life using one mike in a small cabin in Galway. The title track, adorned with Conor Smith’s icy pedal steel, pays McGovern’s debt to Paul Simon especially in his attention to musical detail, but his voice makes it his own. The “long blonde hair” phrase from the Bowie cover ‘Sorrow’ gets an outing in the opener ‘I’m Not Myself Today (Take Me Back)’ which comes wrapped in a James Taylor plaintiveness. The short ‘The Night Game’ has harmonies that would do credit to CSN as they drift across neat acoustic guitars, before James Steele’s seductive sax opens the door on ‘Sleep, Sleep, Sleeping’ on which McGovern’s expressive voice, especially when he slides effortlessly into falsetto, truly shines. There’s a Spanish flavour to the guitar figures in the Cohenesque ‘Isle of May’ to which subtly croonsome harmonies help evoke the deserted Scottish island. ‘I Hear Their Voices In The Attic’ has a magnificent choral effect plus acoustic piano to flesh out another sparse track in the Cohen mould.
There’s a timelessness to McGovern’s work and delivery that suggests he could have emerged at any time since the late sixties, and his lyrical preoccupations range from cityscapes to nature, haunting, love, loss and loneliness. Overall, Highfield Suite warns of a real talent arriving among us. Let’s hope his next effort ventures beyond its comparatively narrow musical vision, because we’ll be keeping an eye out for it round these parts.