In Passing, CD by The Donald Anderson Band. Produced by the band and Marvin Smith and marketed by Making Waves Records.
A discussion in our office last week centred on the merits of musical cover versions, and was brought about by the highly successful visit of the Abba tribute outfit Bjorn Again.
There is obviously much less of an issue in some genres, classical and jazz for instance, as many of the originators were writers as opposed to performers.
In the field of rock and pop, however, a cover band is rightly never going to be appreciated in the same way as a band which write its own songs, even though many of the most famous artistes have long uttered their last note.
Plenty in Shetland have penned their own material, but those who have achieved most success so far are difficult to define, with Shoormal, Malachy Tallack, The Red Vans and Sheila Henderson all crossing the various boundaries of folk, singer/songwriter, country and pop. As far as above-average standard contemporary rock goes, No Sweat are the only band I can think of which, with a bit more luck, could have entered the mainstream.
The Donald Anderson Band, which has just released its debut album Passing On, could be another.
That becomes immediately evident with the title track, all catchy, up-beat, jangling fare and as perfect an opener as I have heard for some time.
Anderson follows with the equally impressive Weathering, and later in the album comes the superb Maybe We Could Ask …, just shading What I’ve Left Behind and In The Morning as the stand-out.
A couple of songs are more difficult to like, such as Broken Refrain which is fairly turgid rock to this ear. But perhaps it is not that they are all that bad, just that Anderson has set a particularly high benchmark.
Who have influenced the band most I have no idea, but I would wager luminaries such as Dire Straits, Chris Rea and Thin Lizzy may have featured. Anderson’s voice, although carrying a Scottish lilt, sounds more Christy Moore than anyone from his native country, while the lyrics are thought-provoking throughout.
That is notably highlighted on Maybe We Could Ask, where Anderson poses serious questions about the world’s drug industry. “Heard a man arguing on the radio a few months ago, saying we’ve got to burn the poppy fields, stamp out the trade. But where are the roots from which the poppies grow, and who loses out and who gets paid?” he asks. “We could ask the devil what he has to say, or maybe we could ask the CIA.”
All over the album the talents of Alan McKay are to the fore. There are few better guitarists than McKay in the isles, if any, and the fact that he was the victim of some criticism from this reviewer after last year’s Shetland Blues Festival still bothers me somewhat. The point there concerned an over-dominance of lead riffs at times, but this recording is entirely different, and his undoubted class, with shades of Mark Knopfler and Gary Moore, shines through relentlessly. The over-dubbing is impressive, with the different layers showing McKay’s versatility.
Contributing to a tightly-knit batch of songs is a highly-proficient rhythm duo, drummer Duncan Kidson, who works as a lecturer at the NAFC Marine Centre, and my old mate “councillor” Rick Nickerson, whose steady bass playing acts as a conduit for the whole affair. Nickerson obviously took a leaf out of Robert Mitchum’s book when interviewed for the the current Shetland Life magazine’s 21 questions, giving only a modicum of information, but we all know there’s more to him than that.
Hopefully In Passing will sell well, and helped by a bit of airplay on Radio Scotland by Tom Morton and Ian Anderson might attract a wider audience than just from these shores.
The CD is now available from Clive’s Record Shop, High Level Music and various other local shops, and I’m reliably told a download version will follow.