Official Video For Nothing On The Dry Land by Shane o'Doherty
As I prepare to send my new record into the ether, zeroes and ones on a digital breeze, I thought I'd write a few words about it, and why part two of The Alphabet of Hurricanes brings to an end a style of writing to which I don't think I'll be returning in a long time, if ever.
Alphabet of Hurricanes was, in my head at least, a double album. But record companies don't like double albums for lots of reasons, so the idea was to break the release into two parts. But as is becoming usual for me, I parted company with the label, and the idea of the record got shelved, along with the recordings I'd already made.
I was busy making plans, then a bit of life got in the way and changed my world... and after 23 years of living in London and other bustling cities, I packed up and moved to the west country. Don't ask me why, I've no idea how I ended up here, I just got in the car and drove until it felt right. It felt right in the lowlands of Somerset.
One of my new neighbours helped me convert an old boiler shed in my garden into a little music room ( I have about as much sense of DIY as I do of rhythm) and I went to work. After the 2010 tour with the band, I wanted to get straight back to work on a record that I could take on the road with them again, a record with songs written specifically with those players in mind, with a different approach musically and lyrically to anything I'd done before. That record, made in Wales earlier this year, will hopefully be out next year. Best to say hopefully with anything I do these days. But still the idea of Alphabet pt 2 wouldn't go away.
I kept returning to that melancholy set of songs. The subject matter had been gnawing at me for a while, some of the memories I thought might be better swept under the carpet kept resurfacing, and when songs keep calling it's polite to at least pick up the phone. Consider this fair warning then, that "From The Lowlands", is as the title suggests, not the happiest of records. I know, I know... I don't make happy records. I'm not sure whether I'm supposed to apologise, but my way of celebrating life is to acknowledge it's brevity and fragility, preferably in A minor.
These songs are resolutely more intimate, darker, and more delicate than anything I've done. It's over 25 years since I wrote my first proper (and properly bad) song, people often call it singer-songwriter music. I'm not sure I know what that means, but I write them, and sing them, so I can't fault the logic.
A relatively late addition to this album is my version of Sloop John B, which I recorded for Mojo Magazine earlier this year. It seemed to fit the overall mood of the album, with its maritime flavour and sad, salty refrain (at least the way I did it, obviously) so I've included it here. There's a full track listing below.
Songwriting is a strange obsession for me. I return to forms and subject matter time and again, desperately trying to get them right before I can move on, trying to get them to do what I imagine they're capable of when I first write them. I want to simplify or reduce some songs to their most basic essence, so that they become a pure, direct form of communication. As an occasional whiskey (and whisky) drinker, that attraction to the distillation process is probably only to be expected. So this, then, is my single barrel, own label, aged for 42 years, McRae Special Reserve. Please enjoy responsibly.
Hopefully you've already seen the teaser trailer for the new record - it's some footage I shot of a buzzard near my house. I've been living here for 2 years now, but I'm still fascinated by these big birds of prey. They were endangered once, now they're so numerous, certain groups want them culled. As a male singer-songwriter, I can empathise. I also love that the collective noun for buzzards is "wake". For a record like "From The Lowlands", that feels appropriate.
From The Lowlands is available to order here: www.tommcrae.com
Lately's All I Know
Nothing On The Dry Land
Sloop John B
Belly Of A Whale
Fuck You, Prometheus
From The Lowlands
Ship Of Blue And Green
All That's Gone
The Alphabet of Hurricanes
The solo tour starts in October, full dates and ticket links are here:
See you then.... Tom