If the Scots slang – which gives Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire’s “Swithering” its name – suggests any sort of indecisiveness at play, then it’s one that the band whole-heartedly embraced to help push the boundaries of what it felt capable of creating. From the very beginning, this was a group of players eager to change how they approached making a record. Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, the band (Scott Clark, Roddy Hart, Andy Lucas, Scott Mackay, John Martin, Geoff Martyn, and Gordon Turner) formed naturally over a number of years as Hart’s own evolution as an artist and songwriter progressed. Their first studio album-proper, 2013’s “Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire”, was critically hailed for its distinctively dark and atmospheric sound and led to a nomination on the fiercely contested long list for the Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award. Notably, the record also caught the attention of prime time US TV host Craig Ferguson who invited the band to perform on The Late Late Show for CBS that same year, leading to a 5-night residency that played out to a combined audience of over 12 million viewers. A Scottish Variety Award for International Breakthrough Artist of The Year followed, as did a nomination for Best Band at the Spirit of Scotland Awards, and performances at the opening party for the Commonwealth Games and a celebrated show with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra only served to bolster their reputation as a formidable live band; cemented by the huge popularity of their self-curated and much loved “Roaming Roots Revue” for Celtic Connections each year.
And yet the challenge was what to do next. Whilst 2015 saw a performance at SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas, most of the year was given over to writing and recording what would become “Swithering”. There was no rush: only the intention of deepening the musical bond forged between them. “I started bringing songs in that were at various stages of their life, and just seeing where we could take them”, Hart explains. “It was uncharted territory for us: in equal parts daunting, tense, exhilarating and rewarding”. A more collaborative energy developed, with work studiously taking place in the confines of their rehearsal room in Film City, Govan over a number of months. Admired Scottish producer Paul Savage (Mogwai, Emma Pollock, Admiral Fallow) was then asked to come on board to co-produce and help them realise their vision. “He was key to adding a sense of perspective – and calm – to it all, allowing the madness of this new working relationship forming between us to unfold in the most creative way possible”. Hart is convinced the ends justified the means: “We are stronger as a band for it, and we’ve made the best record I’ve ever been involve in”
The result is an album as musically diverse and eclectic as it is seeking and inventive. From the gnarly Wilco-esque guitar solo ripping through the middle of “Dreamt You Were Mine”, to the Talking Heads-inspired eccentricity of “Low Light” and the shades of War on Drugs, The National, and Midlake found on songs like “Sliding”, “We’re The Immortals” and “Tiny Miracles”, it’s clear that this is a record full of unexpected twists and turns. And yet, for all the influences on show, there is no doubt that this is a crafted sound that is entirely their own. Importantly, a real Scottish sensibility is at play too; Hart continuing and developing the neat lyrical colloquialisms established on the first album and running with them to great effect. “Paul was instrumental in encouraging me to write and sing in a way that was true to myself,” says Hart, “and that in turn gave the band the courage to mark its own territory with a distinct Scottish identity”.
The new album “Swithering” is due for release on all formats – including limited edition 180g vinyl – on Middle of Nowhere Recordings, with tour dates to follow.