Sean McLaughlin and The Wind Up Crows “Goodnight, Lad”

Stitch Records, 2024

Impressive debut from Shetlander with serious songwriting chops.

Opening with a traditional sounding folk instrumental, the brief but endearing ‘Unburnt Viola’, the casual listener could be wrong-footed and move on thinking this is genre bound to the section labelled ‘wooly jumpered folk’. However as the tracks unfold it is clear that this is a much more nuanced thing, although the folk thing is a good starting point. Raised on the tiny Island of Bressay in the Shetland Islands McLaughlin certainly communicates a deep love for rurality, the sea and traditional music but there are other influences at play throughout this quietly captivating debut.

‘Ninewells’ unfolds in fine style and finishes on a cobweb of dissonance that lasts just long enough to change the impact of the song. The Indian violin styling on ‘Hairband’ creates an original and genuinely moving palette for McLaughlin’s oblique lyricism with the production creating a haunting, sensuous mood despite the fact that most of the recording was done remotely. ‘Run Aground‘ is almost Big Country with its strut and rhythm although beautifully grounded by the fiddles. The chorus is a gift for a live gig where the air must be punched. ‘Feathers’ is far more traditional folk as is ‘Cleaned’ but both speak of youth and the sense of living for the now despite the creases of nostalgia that pervade. ‘The Lightning Tree‘ is surely a modern folk classic, all plucked instruments and shimmering sounds with McLaughlin’s yearning vocals up front and centre as the mandolin circles the narrative. ‘Wishing Well’ is no Free cover, more of a ramble through wild moors in the company of fellow travellers.

An impressive debut and worthy of investigation for any lover of modern roots music.


About Keith Hargreaves 390 Articles
Riding the one eyed horse into dead town the scales fell from his eyes. Music was the only true god at once profane and divine The dust blew through his mind as he considered the offering... And then he scored it out of ten and waited for the world to wake up
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