After noting that his presence wasn’t there at the recent exhibition of Scottish music in Edinburgh, several musicians got together to create an album of greats, paying homage to the mighty Ivor Cutler. Matt Brennan (Citizen Bravo) and saxophonist/composer Raymond McDonald (Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra) decided to set the record straight, re-affirming Cutler’s status as a true musical national treasure, uniting Brennan and McDonald’s very different backgrounds with this eccentric, bizarre and fruitful collaboration. The core team was completed by producers Malcolm Benzie (eagleowl and Withered Hand) and Andy Monaghan (member of much missed Frightened Rabbit).
The result of such a project is mixed, with so many from the Scottish music scene agreeing and incorporated into this album. Including Karine Polwart, Zoe Graham, Duglas T. Stewart, Emma Pollock, Stuart Murdoch, Pictish Trail and Jo Mango, this album is not only a reminder of Culter’s stamp on the music scene, with so many renowned stalwarts paying tribute in such a fashion. Emma Pollock’s rendition of Size Nine And A Half is undisputedly Emma Pollock, and Karine Polwart’s version of Pickle Your Knees is made alive by Karine, similarly to the rest of her Scottish Songbook tracks. The lyrics, as you can tell from these titles, are undoubtably Ivor Cutlers.
Adam Stafford adds his own discordant stamp to A Tooth Song, short and atmospheric for the mere 57 seconds, and Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch adds an element of twee to the Sh Chi, reminding us of his work as well as Cutler’s. Tracyanne Campbell featuring on Women of the World makes it a work of finesse, joyful and jovial it’s a piece of work pleasurable to listen to. James Yorkston’s contribution on a A Real Man is classic James with an anecdotal format to it. The Path is a short ditty with vocals from Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite, distorted to add a Cutler vibe. Muscular Tree is given the Megan Earlie touch whereas Rachel Sermanni and Chris Thomson’s Who Tore Your Trousers James is an eccentric discordant mash of instruments that all adds to the original. Beautiful Cosmos featuring Anna Miles is more reflective of Cutler’s style, whereas Good Morning! How Are You? Shut Up! is a chaotic jumble with Pictish Trail’s contribution, a parody of itself.
All in all, this is a wonderfully rich addition to Scotland’s album releases of 2020. Out on Chemikal Underground, the gravitas of the label cements Cutler’s place in the Scottish music scene, and sees a slick and fine production job on this tribute to one of this country’s more eccentric contributors to Scotland’s creative landscape.
The Return to Y’Hup: The World of Ivor Cutler is out on 24th January 2020, via Chemikal Underground. As per the wishes of Ivor’s son Jeremy Cutler, proceeds from the album will be donated to a registered mental health charity called the Philadelphia Association.