The Sound Cafe
Scottish Blood In American Clay
Scottish musician Malcolm MacWatt has already gained recognition for his powerful song-writing. As a solo performer, swapping out his telecaster for an acoustic guitar, his story-telling comes to the fore, often with brutal clarity, writing about love, loss, guilt and loneliness with recurring themes of home, connection and family. By paring songs down to the absolute minimum he allows the lyrics and melodies to take priority.
Age 12 and getting into the guitar, Malcolm first heard Johnny Cash at San Quentin and was immediately hooked into country music, especially the more traditional, folk elements with roots stretching back across the Atlantic to Britain and Europe.
As his interest in the guitar developed over the years he has been influenced by players from across the music spectrum including Jimmy Page, Jimmy Vaughan, Brian Robertson, Robert Smith, Django Reindhardt , Tony Rice and many others. He includes Justin Currie, Martin Stephenson, Steve Earle, John Martyn and Gillian Welch as songwriters who have shaped his writing in some form.
“Country is heart, guts and soul music, born out of difficult times, and I try to keep that in my writing whether it's a country song or otherwise,” he says. “In one way or another I’ve lived my songs. They’re very personal and honest but at every gig people always tell me how they relate to them… I love when that happens.”
SKAIL - an old Scots word meaning to disperse, scatter and sail over water - sees MacWatt weaving traditional Scottish yarn into the fabric of Americana for his third 2020 studio release.
The EP features three songs with the Appalachians, evictions, struggle, hope and independence at their heart and is a meeting of Scottish and American roots music with MacWatt playing all instruments throughout.
Written and recorded at the height of the coronavirus lockdown from his home in south-east London, MacWatt found himself longing for the fresh air, clean water, open spaces, familiar faces and above all the safety of Morayshire where he grew up.
During the weeks of isolation he happened across an article about the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Georgia up the east coast of America to Maine, which now includes the Scottish Highlands due to ancient geological links going back millions of years.
Coming from the Moray Firth with the northern mountains of the Black Isle an everyday skyline, the stories of the Highland Clearances were already well known to him but in the context of a pandemic, together with the tragic narratives surrounding UK immigration, he felt compelled to explore the connections between Scottish emigration to the New World in the 18th Century and the roots of country and americana music.