The Sutherland Brothers lead singer and songwriter returns to his roots and looks to the dramatic Scottish coastline for inspiration
Some 40 years after his songs You Got Me Anyway and Arms Of Mary graced the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, Iain Sutherland is still writing. Has he still got it? Well, he hasn’t made it easy for himself – all 14 songs of album Back To The Sea are composed, performed and produced by Iain, primarily in his home in Scotland. A musical marathon for a youngster, but if, as Paul Simon averred, songwriting gets harder as you get older, then Iain Sutherland had not only a marathon to run, but a mountain to climb. Retaining contact with your muse whilst multi-layering drums, percussion, guitars, keyboards, harmonies and vocals alone in a room is no small task. On Back To The Sea, Iain Sutherland plants a flag on the peak of his achievement with stamina to spare and a smile on his face.
There isn’t a duff song on here. The melodies are as strong as those that the younger Sutherland gave to the world in the 1970s and the voice is equally as fresh. Iain’s contemporary and compatriot, Gerry Rafferty would have been pleased with any of these songs and that’s saying something. The arrangements are equally as well-measured, especially the vocal harmonies, and the playing isn’t bad either. Economical use of the drums, abetted by the addition of well-judged percussion, sits comfortably alongside his ever dependable bass playing. Passing chords and fine counter melodies from guitars and keyboards only add to the pleasure. Our only gripe is the virtually ubiquitous accordion riffing away – we could have done with less of it, much less.
Lyrically Iain keeps with what he knows and has seen over the years and, most importantly, he keeps it simple. Like a well-intentioned uncle patting you on the shoulder, the messages and observations are gently and kindly proffered. Along with the music, it’s a comforting experience. Back To The Sea ought to be widely heard but, unless a national radio or TV station gives it the attention it deserves, it will only be enjoyed by the very lucky few. We’re pleased to count ourselves among them.
Verdict: An avuncular object lesson in songwriting, playing and record production. Listen and enjoy.