THE Scotsman’s music critics review this week’s latest album releases, including a full-length debut from The Voice winner Stevie McCrorie
POP: Stevie McCrorie: Big World | Rating: ** | Decca
Stevie McCrorie was the likeable regular guy winner of the 2015 edition of The Voice who remains suitably down-to-earth about his commercial chances, especially given previous contestants’ non-existent rate of post-show success. But he gives it his best shot anyway with a slick self-penned album which comfortably ticks the radio-friendly pop/rock boxes as it barrels through a succession of inoffensive, moderately rousing would-be anthems and breezy acoustic pop tracks which could just as easily have been recorded by the likes of Mumford & Sons, Maroon 5, One Direction or even Biffy Clyro.
McCrorie’s effortless, soaring voice, tinged with a dash of Celtic grit, is capable of tackling more adventurous material than this. Fiona Shepherd
POP: De Rosa: Weem | Rating: *** | Rock Action Records
After a break of six years, Glasgow’s De Rosa return with their third album and, my, how they’ve grown. Weem radiates a mature confidence, divested of any need to strain for impact, instead making its mark using subtle shading, beguiling instrumentation and Martin John Henry’s soft yet strong vocals.
Prelude to Entropic Doom wears its angsty title lightly, and is representative of the album’s tender blend of indie, folk and post-rock influences, fluently fashioned at their Highland recording retreat.
It’s a familiar sound for anyone who follows Scottish indie music but all the more calm and comforting for it. FS
CLASSICAL: NYCoS National Girls Choir: Only a Singing Bird | Rating: ***** | Signum Classics
The key focus of this latest recording by Christopher Bell’s wonderful National Youth Choir of Scotland National Girls’ Choir is the music of Michael Head, best known, perhaps, for his songs The Ships of Arcady and The Little Road to Bethlehem, but clearly the creator of much more that is worthy of wider circulation. There are the beautifully crafted, soft-scented songs that make up the choral cantata Snowbirds, featuring guest soloist Karen Cargill, whose golden mezzo soprano hovers exquisitely above the creamy blend of the girls’ voices, notably in the mellifluous Love Offerings. Bell draws sustained precision and endless expressive range from his choristers in other Head songs, in Gary Carpenter’s The Food of Love: Book 2, and in settings by Ken Johnston and Stephen Deazley. Ken Walton
FOLK: Kirsty Potts: The Seeds of Life | Rating: *** | Own Label
Kirsty Potts can boast impeccable traditional music credentials, being the daughter of singer and researcher Alison McMorland. Here she truly finds her own voice, if perhaps not quite a consistent style, in the company of Alasdair Roberts on guitar, Mattie Foulds on drums, fiddler Anne Wood and others, not least her mother on occasional vocal harmonies.
Songs such as a striking rendition of the ballad Binnorie suggest authentic-sounding folk voice, riding Alasdair Robert’s guitar chords with ease, while other traditional material includes the jaunty Shepherd’s Song, learned via her mother from the great Willie Scott.
She opens with the rockabilly-gospel fusion of her exuberant Scotland’s Peace Train, while A Wee Bird Cam tae My Apron gets an infectiously jittering African treatment, courtesy guitarist Rise Kagona, although I’m not sure whether the Child ballad Bonnie Annie really benefits from a slow blues treatment.
Delivered with timeless dignity, however, are The College Boy and the anthemic Pulling Hard Against the Stream. Jim Gilchrist