Findlay Napier, Gillian Frame & Mike Vass : The Ledger1 May 2020 : Cheerygroove Records
By late middle age, Irish poet W.B. Yeats declared himself 'worn out with dreams'; now it is a grimmer reality that leaves us frayed.
The detailed, evocative and cinematic songs on Findlay Napier's last album, Glasgow, marked him out as one of Scotland's most remarkable singer songwriters.
The Ledger, a work of reverence put together in collaboration with Gillian Frame and Mike Vass, places Napier in an equally significant position as an interpreter of traditional music.
Findlay's grandfather, Findlay Cumming, used a ledger to collect together articles about Scottish folk songs that he had carefully cut out from The Scotsman - hence the album's title.
The features, written each week in the late 50s and 60s by folklorist Norman Buchan, gave the lyrics and melody of a song alongside notes on their origin.
Napier, Frame & Vass worked through sixty songs in 'the ledger', picking a final ten for the album; abandoning any attempt to find a theme to thread through the record and instead choosing those they enjoyed singing the most. That relish comes across in the recordings.
Of the ten, the readings of Burnie Bushel and Barbara Allan are particularly sensitive. The former a swirling delight, the latter a lovely, understated take on a heart-rending love song. The precise yet spare arrangement of Twa Recruitin' Sergeants weaves a spell. Every moment of The Ledger has been lovingly crafted.
Gillian Frame is from the Isle of Arran - she is a gifted fiddle player and singer, her vocals here are magnificent. Mike Vass is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and producer - whose own solo album last year, Save His Calm, was hugely impressive.
The pair have helped Findlay Napier bring the songs he found in a dusty attic book to vivid life.
Combining the deep-rooted respect all three bring to the music with bewitching musicianship makes The Ledger a quietly mesmeric pleasure - as stated on the cover, best enjoyed beside a roaring fire with a dram - when it can flick a switch on the outside world and restore a sense of wonder.