YOU’LL never be able to accuse Kevin Allan, the creative force behind Scottish folk outfit Fair Mothers, of dashing off a quick, vapid pop hit for the lulz.
That isn’t to say he isn’t capable – the musicianship he presents is deep and adept; but whereas for some music is a career, for Kevin, it’s an absolute necessity, a catharsis, an expression, a refashioning of the lived.
His most recent, second LP, Separate Lives, only appeared this February, a weighty, deeply textured Valentine’s; it picked up a lot of support from Stuart Maconie on his weekly Freak Zone for 6Music. But time flows so fast, and there is more to be told.
We reviewed his last single, the shadowy folk-noir of “Harpy” in these pages just a month ago – and adored it.
And four weeks on Kevin has released another single, “Monochrome”, in support of his next album of the same name, which you’ll be able to enter into a rewarding relationship with in August.
And the single, which forms the deep gravitational heart of the LP, has obsidian depths of feeling and honest communication.
Written after a particularly fierce argument with his wife, Kevin notes that it concerns “the possibility of splitting up, the ruin of our life and losing my family.”
A guitar chimes, and. Allan opens: “You’ve hardly said a word / Since you’ve quietened down” … We let cold winds into our home … his voice cracking and tears-throated over a dusk piano. The bone cold of the argument, the monochrome waste, is there in his voice, in the sound. It’s always cold.
His female respondent in the song is Faith Eliott, who warms and adds heartfelt ‘Sha-la-la-las’, an idea taken from The Shirelles: placing this raw Aberdeenshire folk tune firmly and audaciously in a tradition of heart-sorrow stretching back to Spector and the girl groups.
Allan says “Monochrome” is the most honest track on the album and also his favourite.
“I remember driving to the studio, over the new Queensferry Bridge, listening to the first rough mix of ‘Monochrome’, he says. “It was the first time I’d heard Faith’s parts, and it sounded so wonderful.”
Here at Backseat Mafia, we are privileged enough to have heard, loved, been deeply moved by, and eventually committed words to paper about Monochrome, the album. We found it an absolutely essential work.
Watch for our review in the first days of August; but in the meantime tread carefully with your heart and let “Monochrome” envelop you.
Fair Mothers’ “Monochrome” is out today, July 17th. Listen below.