Findlay Napier is himself, a very interesting person. Schooled in traditional Scots folk music he has over the years moved into a more alternative scene while retaining his traditional connections especially in the educational work he undertakes. While his tenure in bands such as Back of the Moon and Findlay Napier and the Bar Room Mountaineers have kept him well in the folk limelight he also helms the alternative music showcase Hazy Recollections that is a feature of Celtic connections and other festivals.
Very Interesting Persons, his solo debut, grew out of a song-writing project Napier undertook with Boo Hewerdine last year. The pair lighted on the idea of concentrating on potted biographies of people with interesting life stories and, Wikipedia in hand, they crafted over two dozen songs, since whittled down to ten. The end result is an album that intrigues and delights in equal measure. A delight to listen to with Napier’s sweet loamy voice grounding the whole in a Celtic folk fashion while the players adopt different styles incorporating folk, country, blues and even skiffle. Intriguing as Napier’s lyrics shed a light on the cast of characters in an impressionistic style, not story songs but songs behind the stories. With brief notes on the VIP’s in the liner notes the listener is free to follow up the stories , a task that has certainly led to some fine elucidation here at Blabber’n’Smoke but on the simplest listening level VIP is a bit of a treasure.
The album opens with Hedy Lamarr, a song that perhaps unveils the most interesting nugget of information here as it seems that Lamarr was an inventor who developed a wireless system for guiding torpedoes during the Second World War. While this is now seen as the precursor to Bluetooth technology at the time Lamarr was somewhat chided and told that she would be more useful entertaining the troops. The lyric alludes to this as Napier sings Hedy Lamarr you know your place you’re just another pretty face. Meanwhile the song itself is a regretful lament with lap steel guitar from Gustaf Ljunggren (who appears throughout the album) and plaintive harmonies from Gillian Frame offering a sepia stained portrait of a woman whose intellect was buried by her looks. Napier continues in this vein throughout the album, the songs and arrangements fitting the stories like a glove. There are heroes in decline, others forgotten, lost or abandoned; there’s no triumph here. There’s no room here to detail them all and as we said the album is a bit of a primer, listen to it and you will be seeking to flesh out the stories. Suffice to say that Napier and Hewerdine hit the nail on the head each time allowing one to wallow in the gritty blues grit of The Man Who Sold New York, the Gerry Rafferty folkiness of Eddie Banjo, the bitter sweet Americana country of A Shame About George, the dappled winsomeness of Valentina, the 60’s folk picking of The Sport Of Kings and finally the Celtic mists of Angel Falls. The album is a trip, a trip inside the head and a trip to the library. As we said earlier, a bit of a treasure.