IT IS going to be difficult for the music critics to pan the lyrics on this album. Some of Scotland's leading writers and musicians have joined forces in an unprecedented cultural collaboration due to hit record stores later this summer.
Writers such as Edwin Morgan, Ian Rankin and Alasdair Gray have been paired with bands including Idlewild and The Trashcan Sinatras in one of the most unusual and ambitious artistic projects undertaken in Scotland in decades.
Each of the 17 tracks of the CD involved a big-name writer producing the lyrics and a top band or artist writing the music. The result, according to Idlewild singer Roddy Woomble, pictured, is a "a very special concept poetry record".
The album, due for general release this September, has its modest roots in a letter written several years ago.
Woomble wrote to Morgan asking if he would pen something for the band. Morgan obliged and wrote the lyrics for a track called 'Scottish Fiction' on the band's The Remote Part album. The song's success inspired Woomble to think about a project on a bigger scale.
Woomble said: "Since Edwin worked with us we have kept in regular contact. Last autumn when we met again he had written some more lyrics for us.
"As a project - on any level - this idea works because it's exciting for any musician to put music to lyrics of such a high standard. Likewise, for writers it is great for them to hear their work on a different level."
The project was originally supposed to stretch to no more than an EP but "morphed happily out of control" earlier this year when other Scottish writers discovered the idea and started sending their own lyrics to Woomble for inclusion.
Leading Scots producers Chemikal Underground Records came on board to produce and the resulting 17 tracks are, said Woomble, "a very important album".
Among the highlights are collaborations between Teenage Fanclub's singer and guitarist Norman Blake and John Burnside, Sons and Daughters and writer-turned comedian AL Kennedy, Arab Strap's Aidan Moffatt and Ian Rankin, and Fife's own King Creosote and The Cutting Room author Louise Welsh.
Folk singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan and No Fireworks novelist Rodge Glass will also make an appearance. Elsewhere, The Trashcan Sinatras and Whitbread winner Ali Smith will join forces.
Woomble said an element of surprise added to the appeal for everyone involved: "The writers didn't necessarily know who they were going to be paired up with musically so as a result the musicians were really excited about it and enjoyed the selection process."
The majority of the tracks have now been recorded in Chemikal Underground Records' studio in Glasgow.
Their company's producer and The Delgados guitarist, Alun Woodward - who will also appear on the album as a musician in a musical collaboration with Alasdair Gray - said he had been heartened by the extent to which the project's scale had grown organically from humble beginnings.
Woodward said: "People approached us because they were interested in the idea and then, additionally, we had a think about the people we wanted to get on board and then we went to them. The result is more than we could have anticipated."
The producer said the pairings had brought some interesting results: "The collaborations have been a huge success. To do either of the jobs involved you have to be very creative so to have two or more very artistic people working like this is always going to bring really impressive results. I've heard some of the samples already and have been absolutely impressed by the quality.
"It's amazing to see the relationships being formed. A lot of writers are really into music and similarly a lot of musicians are very inspired by writers."
Alasdair Gray will design a cover for the CD and Edwin Morgan will select a title, inspired by the total body of work on the album.
Woodward added: "To have two literary giants like Alasdair and Edwin involved in both the design and the naming of the album really helps to put the project into perspective: it's just a very special, lovely thing."
A spokesman for the Scottish Arts Council said: "We are happy to be involved with a project, which brings together some of Scotland's leading talents."
Chemikal Underground Records is currently one of Scotland's most successful independent record labels. Started 10 years ago in Glasgow, it was the brainchild of The Delgados and has gone on to launch the careers of Mogwai and Arab Strap. The as-yet untitled album is due for release in September.
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