When you think of the Isle of Mull, Scotland’s second largest Inner Hebrides island after Skye, you’ll most likely think of sheep, kids TV show Balamory and Tobermory whisky. But perhaps one of Mull’s finest, lesser known exports is 23 year-old singer-songwriter Sorren Maclean.
His name has been littering sleeve notes in recent years as a co-writer with Roddy Woomble (Idlewild), producer, session musician on over twenty albums including for King Creosote, collaborator on soundtracks for BBC documentaries, and not to mention as a familiar face on tour with Woomble, Mull Historical Society and a regular at Celtic Connections. Having recently signed to Middle of Nowhere Recordings, Maclean is now readying to release a debut LP in his own right, Winter Stay Autumn. The album is set to arrive in summer, but not before Maclean embarks on a March support tour with Idlewild and releases a taste of things to come, the Way Back Home EP.
Maclean’s ear for a catchy hook is immediately apparent on the rolling title track which opens the EP. Powered by driving drums and guitar, the track rumbles along with the speed of a locomotive while Maclean’s earnest lyrics of homecoming are joined by backing vocals and soaring violins. Rows and Rows of Boxes meanwhile, is a more intimate affair, centering on his lilting vocals and a fingerpicked acoustic melody. No-frills, just solid songwriting and some gentle piano and choral embellishments towards the end that indicate Maclean’s deft touch when it comes to arranging.
With a Bob Dylan cover being something of a rite of passage for singer-songwriters, Maclean’s solo acoustic take on If Not For You is ably tackled, if a little straightforward. Drawing the EP to a close, the sombre Long Will You Know is a tune for the wee hours of the morning, with cavernous piano chords and sparkling guitar adding a touch of twilight to Maclean’s lonesome vocals. That is, until it transforms midway through into something different entirely, swelling with drums, whirring strings and a climbing guitar figure before breaking like a wave and subsiding.
While Maclean has stated that Winter Stay Autumn will be more of a band effort, Way Back Home feels like a very personal introduction to his solo work. With fully-formed songs like these, it shows great promise for the forthcoming LP and confirms that Maclean is ready to climb out from behind the sleeve notes and have his name on an album’s front cover.
Review by: James MacKinnon
Way Back Home, on Monday 9th March 2015
Tour Dates: Supporting Idlewild
Catch Sorren supporting Idlewild across the UK:
7th: ABC, Glasgow
10th: The Institute, Birmingham
12th: The Ritz, Manchester
13th: Roundhouse, London
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