Label: Need To Know Music
Release: Nov 2021
Under the umbrella of the US-based Need To Know Music, Scottish songwriter Malcolm MacWatt continues to highlight the Celtic voice in Americana music with his latest album Settler. MacWatt weaves Scottish balladry with Appalachian string band influences to tell stories of loss, injustice and arduous journeys. With contributions from renowned Americana artists Gretchen Peters, Laura Cantrell and Jaimee Harris, as well as British folk icons Eliza Carthy and Kris Drever, the album acknowledges that music travels from place to place picking up new inflections and nuances wherever it puts down roots. Settler builds on the success of last year’s ‘Skail’ EP, conceived and recorded at his London home during the first Covid lockdown, with MacWatt exploring ties between Scotland and the New World. The EP was warmly received with superb reviews and extensive airplay on both sides of the Atlantic. The new album was also home recorded, mixed at L Sound London then mastered at True East in Nashville.
Hailing from Morayshire with the Highlands and North Sea as a constant backdrop, MacWatt was raised listening to the folklore and music of Scotland. His love for the outdoors saw him spending much of his life as a keen hillwalker, snowboarder and surfer; learning first hand that the Highlands are beautiful and uplifting but unforgivingly harsh if taken for granted. Like many other young men from the area he worked on the offshore oil rigs where the power of the North Sea was a constant reminder to remain humble in the face of nature. As such there’s sensitivity, compassion and humanity in his songwriting with a rugged simplicity and directness in how they are delivered.
“When people are uprooted sometimes all they can carry with them are their stories and experiences. Throughout history the Scots have settled all over the world, my family included. I’m a mixed-race Scot with a keen interest in ideas surrounding heritage and identity. Nations were built by people seeking a better life and it is easy to forget our own ancestors were all settlers and immigrants at one time.”
MacWatt plays all instruments on the album with Kris Drever providing electric guitar on one track.
“As a multi-instrumentalist, I apply a song based approach to the arrangements in that I play only what is absolutely necessary. If it doesn’t add anything of value to the song I leave it out. I think if I was working with virtuoso musicians I’d be tempted to let a love for the instruments take precedence. When it is just me I can be more parsimonious!”
Paying tribute to his stellar guests, MacWatt explains that every artist involved brought their unique personalities to the songs.
“For me, Eliza, Gretchen, Jaimee, Kris and Laura are a dream line-up and I feel truly honoured to have them contribute to Settler.”
01 Avalanche And Landslide
02 Letter from San Francisco
03 Ghosts of Caledonia
04 The Curse Of Molly McPhee
05 My Bonny Boys Have Gone
06 The Miller’s Daughter
08 John Rae’s Welcome Home
09 Banjo Lullaby
10 North Atlantic Summer
11 About The Songs…An Oral Explanation