File Under Fiction is the latest release from Findlay Napier and the Bar Room Mountaineers. Findlay has enjoyed success, along with current collaborators, in Queen Anne’s Revenge and the very highly regarded Back Of The Moon. With File Under Fiction, Findlay and writing partner Nick Turner have delivered a collection of songs full of earthy humour, hopeless love and biting satire.
The opening title track is a poppy discussion of a librarian’s disappointment with her real love life when compared to literary content. There are further shrewed observations of love unfulfilled or unrequited in Cutting Her In Two or even simple table-turning obsession in the foot tapper Cut Me Off. Not everything, though, needs to be what it seems – Don’t Look In My Eyes hides a highland story behind the end of an affair. There are songs for the lonely, whether it’s the loneliness of a solitary Hogmanay, related with a gentle Country style in One For The Ditch, or the frustration, and snowballing disaster, of a lonely Valentine’s Day.
There’s no shortage of commentary on the human condition either, in Spread Thin and the restrained Heels Over Head, Napier and Turner relate droll observations on what makes us tick, while Waiting In The Wings deals with disappointment and missed opportunities in the name of family. In contrast, Raise A Glass tells the story of a man numbing his expectations with the help of a bottle.
In an unexpected gentle close to the proceedings, One For Me, Gillian Frame provides the vocals in a search for Mr Right.
An album can’t rely solely on the quality (or quirkiness) of the songwriting though, the music has to hit the spot too. And it does. Findlay’s naturally accented vocal is delivered with strength, precision and even tenderness when required. As for The Bar Room Mountaineers; Gillian Frame keeps her place in the team with characteristically accomplished fiddle and vocals, switching from melodic folky backing to lively Americana with her usual skill, while Douglas Millar provides staunch keyboard and vocal support. The established crew are joined by Braebach’s James Lindsay on bass Scott MacKay, of Manran, on drums.
Unlike their 2009 release, Out All Night, there’s an absence of tradtional material, and with a collection of songs this strong, There’s no place for it, really. Don’t fall for any ‘Scottish Nu-Folk’ labels attached to this album, this more ‘Michael Marra meets Elvis Costello’ than contemporary tradition. In File Under Fiction Napier and Turner are rightly and shamelessly showcasing their own considerable writing talent. This is not background music. These songs look you square in the eye and give you a quick slap around the sensibilities if you dare stop paying attention.
One For the Ditch
One for Me