James Grant – Strange Flowers

strange flowers - james grant

I know it's only rock and roll but I like it.

Is ‘Strange Flowers’ by James Grant the best album ever made by a Scottish musician? Perhaps I am biased. James is a mate of mine and I regard him highly as a human being – as well as considering him a great musician, tunesmith, lyricist, singer, visiting professor of songwriting at the RSAMD, and all-round good bloke. (He is also not bad at football, even if he is a bit greedy in front of goal.)

And yet, quite possibly, ‘Strange Flowers’ may well be the single best album made by a Scottish artist. There are 11 tracks on the album and, in my view, at least 9 classic songs that reward repeated listening. (Including the ‘Scarecrow Song’ that’s become a sudden standard because it’s so timeless. It makes you think it must be a lost classic from another era. There’s a searing 5 minute guitar solo on the 9 minute ‘movie-without-pictures’ that is ‘My Father’s Coat’ – an epic about buying a second hand mohair coat from Paddy’s Market in Glasgow.)

It’s like he has distilled the sounds of his life – Bowie, Scott Walker, Al Green, Steely Dan, Neil Young, The Beatles, John Barry, Jimi Hendrix, Tom Waits, a bit of Van-the-Man and a dash of Johnny Cash – and poured it into one strangely brilliant, inevitably variegated record. There’s amazing guitars, spine-tingling harmonica from Fraser Speirs, funk, love songs, bitter ballads, a Bond theme song, big strings, biting lyrics, real themes.

Of course, the album is unlikely to trouble the pop charts or interrupt the flow of mush from bodacious warblers, dullard rappers and drippy middle-class man-bands. Yet it’s a major achievement. Imagine it – a real album. If you get a chance to see James and his new band performing the new material – there’s a whisper he’s planning a tour or doing festivals – beg, steal, borrow or even buy a ticket. I saw James performing with the band at Celtic Connections. With James dressed somewhere between the Thin White Duke and Gary Cooper in ‘High Noon’…  they were awesome. The guitar solos from James and Gordy Goudie (Gordy more usually seen doing the heavy-lifting on guitar for the Bunymen) reminded you of Mick Ronson, and even Hendrix.

That’s how f-ing good they are.

Buy ‘Strange Flowers’ now here. You won’t regret it.