The Scotsman Sessions #27: Mike Vass

Welcome to The Scotsman Sessions. With the performing arts world shutting down for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, multi-instrumentalist and singer Mike Vass performs Just Enough to Let the Light In from his 2019 album, Save His Calm.

For a musician who has drawn much inspiration from the sea and sailing, the COVID-19 lockdown must be particularly irksome – although, admits Mike Vass, quartered in his home in Glasgow’s Battlefield district, there is something to be said for an enforced period of taking stock: “In a way it’s quite nice just to have time not flitting about the country for bits and pieces of work. A lot of people I’m speaking to seem to be in the same boat.”

Having been hospitalised a few years ago with a life-threatening attack of neuroborreliosis, a central nervous system disorder related to Lyme disease, Vass, who also suffers from asthma, says it’s left him “quite cautious” in regard to the current situation. “I’m just kind of getting on with it at the moment.”

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While able to exercise in nearby parks, he misses being near the sea. However, like his many musician colleagues for whom touring schedules have evaporated in the wan light of COVID-19, he’s quite appreciating having time at home. In the meantime, he’s live-streaming regularly from his Facebook page and working in his home studio on a “lockdown EP” he hopes to release in the summer.

Mike Vass

Ironically, he had pledged, before the virus struck, to forsake flying during 2020, which meant turning down a couple of invitations from the United States. There are still commitments in Europe, later in the year, which he hopes to fulfil by train.

Widely esteemed as a multi-instrumentalist – particularly favouring tenor guitar and fiddle – and producer, Vass has released such acclaimed albums as In the Wake of Neil Gunn and his Scots fiddle celebration The Four Pillars. Here, however, he performs Just Enough to Let the Light In, a bittersweet number from last year’s album Save His Calm, his first venture into singer-songwriting.