Self-confessed introvert Annie Booth has indie rocked-out at points in her music career but in recent years she has pared back her sound and sought solace in more reflective singer/songwriter territory. Her Scotsman Session, recorded at home in Edinburgh, is one of the more minimal offerings in the series, consisting of Booth’s meditative guitar playing and soothing vocal mantra consisting only of the words in the apposite song title: Fallow Year. Need she say more?
“Believe it or not, Fallow Year was written before the pandemic,” she says, “but I think it still echoes the heartache and introspection of feeling like you’ve lost valuable time. It’s a comforting song to play and sing – I think it’s the repetitive, flowing nature of it. I’ve also been quite rundown lately, and was isolating with Covid recently, so it felt like a natural choice to play a more restrained track in my flat.”
Fallow Year is the mellow coda of Booth’s second album Lazybody, most of which was composed before lockdown but chimes with the times in exploring themes of isolation, restlessness and loss of purpose, with Booth beseeching “I need more time” on the swooning, country-tinged lament Ruby.
The album’s lush orchestration, resonant keyboards and Booth’s warm, clear, intimate vocals make for natural bedfellows, while the spare, direct songwriting harks back to her roots at open mic nights when she first moved from her native Auchterarder to study music at Edinburgh Napier University in 2013. Connecting with like-minded musicians on her course, she then formed her band and utilised them to the hilt on her indie-influenced 2017 debut An Unforgiving Light.
Since then, she has dialled back the action. Inspired by idiosyncratic singer/songwriters such as Kathryn Joseph, C Duncan and King Creosote, she found power in restraint on her melancholic Spectral EP, released in the pre-pandemic wonderland of 2019.
“The lockdown had a sizeable impact on me,” says Booth. “It deeply affected my mental health and I’m still finding a way back. I think a lot of people are. I’m grateful for lots of things though. I was really lucky to receive Creative Scotland funding and support from my label Last Night From Glasgow during lockdown, meaning I could record my second album with a host of talented folk.”
Chief among her collaborators is musician/producer Chris McCrory, who also pivots comfortably from the catchy indie rock of his band Catholic Action to quieter, bittersweet sounds. The pair first worked on the Spectral EP and subsequently formed a songwriting partnership as Slow Weather, whose Clean Living EP was a lockdown gem.
Booth has also lent her vocal and keyboard skills to other bands, playing with indie folk outfit Mt Doubt for five years and joining the equally soothing Constant Follower (see Scotsman Session #161) for a current run of shows, including returning to the scene of her first proper gig at the Tolbooth to celebrate the Stirling arts centre’s 20th birthday, and playing in the US for the first time as part of the Scottish contingent at global music industry gathering South By Southwest.
Lazybody is out now on Last Night From Glasgow. Annie Booth plays the Tolbooth, Stirling, 24 February
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