Having penned the cabinet of curiosities which was VIP and then eulogised his adopted city of Glasgow, Findlay Napier seems to have now gotten into the habit of releasing EPs with a selected partner. The first of these was his collaboration with Rebecca Loebe on Filthy Jokes and now here’s a six-song disc written with Megan Henwood, a BBC 2 Young Folk award winner. Napier is a huge champion of the art of song writing and subsequently either runs or attends writing workshops much of the time and it was at one such event he met Henwood and casually asked her if she fancied, “Writing a song about maths?”
It’s one of the many attractions of Napier that he can pluck a subject almost randomly and turn it into a song which is not esoteric but rather intriguing. We’re not familiar with Ms. Henwood’s oeuvre but the songs here are all co-written and her warm voice works well with Napier’s while she opens some other dimensions for Napier aside from his typical investigations. The opening song is Unnamable Radio, based on a 1971 event when a phone in radio jock kept a suicidal man on the line as emergency services eventually located him. It fits well into the vignettes and biographies which have peppered Napier’s albums, as do a couple of the other songs here, but elsewhere the duo bustle about other matters.
Shepherd has Henwood to the fore vocally and it’s a wonderfully realised modern folk song which glistens with some superb guitar work while arching back to the likes of John Martyn, Bert Jansch and Sandy Denny. The harmony singing here is sublime and the song cleaves to the hinterland of folk music, pastoral, mystical and downright spooky. There’s more mystery and weird folkiness on North Pond Phantom which is about a Thoreau like hermit who subsisted on food stolen from homes around his hermitage for 27 years. It’s another true story and Napier and Henwood breathe life into it gracefully and with an empathetic tenderness. But these guys are supposed to be scientists so it’s only fitting that they write a song about a German mathematician who wrestled with the concept of infinity, much to the consternation of his peers. End Of Numbers is another song which could have fitted onto VIP as is the powerful and driving pulse of Wild Wild Country which one presumes is about the ill-fated Rajneeshpuram cult in Oregon. They close the album with The Last Straw, an ecological plea which is the most intricate number on the disc with percussion and some great retro effects. Whether it’s a stylophone or not which produces the cheesy sounds it’s a neat effect cleverly juxtaposing a sixties sci-fi plastic future and the current concerns over plastic waste in the oceans. Whatever, it’s a cracking finale to what is a very good EP.
And finally, you just have to love this video…