Music review: Constant Follower, St Peter's, Linlithgow

Constant Follower seemed perfectly at home in this intimate venue, writes David Pollock

Constant Follower, St Peter’s Linlithgow ****

“It's always strange playing in a church,” said Stephen McAll, the Scottish singer-songwriter otherwise known as Constant Follower, and the leader of the band of the same name. “I used to be an altar boy, but I’m definitely going to hell.”

The two-time Scottish Album of the Year nominee (shortlisted in 2022, longlisted in 2023) seemed perfectly at home here, though. The Byzantine-style St Peter’s Episcopal church in Linlithgow has an all-white interior which feels like you’ve stepped into a church on a Greek hill. It’s also very small, lending a perfect acoustic intimacy to this sold-out Friday night gig.

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Constant Follower PIC: Jannica HoneyConstant Follower PIC: Jannica Honey
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A crowd of 50 or so heard McAll touring his new single Turn Around for Me. Co-produced by Dan Duszynski in Austin, Texas, his accompanying 20-date tour in the States gave him good anecdotes, mainly about the strangeness of US house party gigs and learning never to mention Donald Trump onstage in Texas.

“The Americans love that one,” he joked after Watching the Black River Run. “Well, some do. About three.” McAll is a self-deprecating storyteller and a warm, understated presence onstage, which were perfect qualities in this setting, with his usual full band stripped back to just him on acoustic guitar and vocals and Graham Perrie on keyboard.

In this context, the texture of the songs felt sparse and similar (McAll commented on this himself, that this arrangement of the airy All Too New felt “like going to school naked”), but the introspective, emotive qualities of his songwriting and the tender vulnerability of his vocal were hypnotic.

The decision to add a recorded drum track to Turn Around For Me, which sounded like a hymnal fusion of the National and the Blue Nile, just about worked. He sang songs about death (Happy Birthdays, I Can’t Wake You), but by the end was calling for old ways and turns of speech to be kept alive with the gorgeous The Merry Dancers on TV.

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