Snowgoose “The Making Of You” (Glass Modern, 2020)

Back in 2012, Snowgoose created some significant ripples in the Scottish music scene when they released their debut album. Based around the crystal clear vocals of Anna Sheard and the song writing skills of Jim McCulloch and backed by a who’s who of indie Scots musicians, the album, ‘Harmony Springs’, was hailed as a worthy successor to the likes of Pentangle and Fairport Convention. Eight years later and Sheard and McCulloch weigh in again with ‘The Making Of You’, an album which eclipses its predecessor in many respects.

Once again, there’s a to die for list of musicians helping out, garnered from the likes of Belle & Sebastian, Teenage Fanclub, The Pearlfishers, BMX Bandits and The Bluebells. Sheard’s voice is immaculate and, this time around, she has a hand in the songwriting. McCulloch meanwhile – with a pedigree stretching back to The Soup Dragons, his solo project Green Peppers and his work with Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan –  draws from his well of experience to create with Sheard what is ultimately, a magnificent listen.

The album is a heady mix of folk and pop as seen through a kaleidoscopic time machine tuned into the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. The pagan folk rites of ‘The Wickerman’ rub shoulders with the more innocent rainbow tinted hues of psychedelic pop. The folky aspects owe more to the likes of the little known Shelagh McDonald and the Traffic of ‘John Barleycorn’ rather than Pentangle while it’s Renaissance Fair and the Californian harmonies of Spanky & The Gang and The Association which fuel the sunshine pop.

The album opens with the mystical folk rock of ‘Everything’. Ecclesiastical organ and ringing guitars add a grandeur to the song, amplified by Sheard’s voice which is a delight. ‘The Making Of You’ is in a similar vein although it cleaves more to rustic themes in the main body of the song while a beautiful instrumental passage midway through is perhaps a perfect example of what writer Rob Young was searching for in his book ‘Electric Eden’. Less dense but equally enjoyable is the slight folk jazz influence in ‘Deserted Forest’ with some excellent double bass by Dave McGowan and both ‘The Optimist’ and ‘Counting Time’ tumble along perfectly recalling the very early Fairport Convention’s handling of Joni Mitchell songs. They condense their sense of weird folk in the brief ‘Leonard’, a song which reminds one of those theme songs the BBC used to use to scare kids back in the days.

It’s testament to their skill that Snowgoose weave into the album several songs which summon up the sunshine pop of the golden state in the late sixties without disturbing the overall feel of the album.  The primary evidence here is the beguiling ‘Who Will You Choose’. Imagine if you will, a vanload of Anglo folk rockers tootling down Ventura Highway with Dave Crosby and The Mamas and Pappas giving directions from the back and you might have an inkling of the song. ‘Hope’ (in this case, the song) springs eternal, as its breezy vocals and gliding guitar solo take flight while ‘Goldenwing’ is a master class in harmony singing. ‘Gave Up Without A Sound’ closes the album with a flourish as the band heave close to The Band with Garth Hudson like organ driving the song along while Sheard’s immaculate voice takes one back to the Laurel Canyon Joni. All in all, just wonderful.

A wonderful contemporary take on classic folk rock and California pop
8/10

Author: Paul Kerr

Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.

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