An ex-pat Shetland singer and guitarist has mined his memories of growing up in the islands for a new musical project, under the moniker The Boondock Hippy, and has pledged the proceeds from the first 50 copies sold to cancer charity CLAN.
Steven Keenlyside, who grew up in Lerwick and now lives in Colliers Wood, London, this week issued The Boondock Hippy’s 11-track debut album Life in the Slow Lane.
A piece of work frequently harking back to the age of classic rock on both sides of the Atlantic in the 60s and 70s, Steven says it takes “a nostalgic view of the past and a great appreciation for the finer things in life, however small”.
The album kicks off with a laid-back, harmonica-laden instrumental featuring a sample of Martin Luther King’s historical speech “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam”.
Along with the civil rights era, artists from that time who “really had something to say” – including Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones – were Steven’s inspiration. More contemporary influences include Jeff Buckley and Phil Campbell.
Steven, who sings and plays guitar and piano, is joined on lead guitar by Rex Pearson, with Andy Mcsweeney on bass duties, trumpet from Adrian French, drums from Dan Szsmyczak and extra percussion from Abz Joshi.
He says it is a change of direction musically, as he had been exploring more dance-y avenues in recent years. Back in the 1990s he was in a Shetland band, Seventh Seal, who in 1997 released a six-track cassette tape and were heavily influenced by The Stone Roses and the Britpop era. Fittingly, they supported Ian Brown when he came here in 1998. The band then morphed into Elmore, who also featured Kennedy Stewart and Patrick Robertson.
Partly because hiring a professional recording studio in London can swiftly “rack up into thousands of pounds”, Steven decided not to record Life in the Slow Lane in the traditional way. Instead, he recorded the basics on a digital four-track in his bedroom, then pinged the tracks to the other musicians, who added their bits and pieces over the past six months.
He explained to The Shetland Times that a strong theme of nostalgia for childhood and the simpler pleasures in life permeates through many of the songs: Golden Age is a wistful look back at the joys of jumping around in rock pools and exploring the great outdoors, rather than “sitting in front of a computer screen all the time”, while mini-anthem Summer Sands is about heading to the beach with your friends and feeling the warm sun on your back.
Steven has been living in London, where he works for Thames Water, since completing a sociology degree at Glasgow University in 2002. Some of the characters he has stumbled upon in the big smoke make an appearance, including Toots Lemally – the fictional nickname for a “crazy guy” he knew who “used to get up in the mornings, go outside his balcony and pour an ice cold bucket of water over himself to wake up”.
Elsewhere on the record are songs dedicated variously to his wife, to people with hidden agendas and, on RAJ, to a guy who “only thought about success and didn’t care who he trampled on to get there”, before Life in the Slow Lane bows out with the feel-good Promised Land.