Innes Watson – Guitar Colloquium

Album Review | Isle Music | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 5/5

Innes Watson is a Glaswegian multi instrumental musician (although on this album he plays guitar), a teacher at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, appearing regularly in my music collection and on at least twenty four records over the last fifteen years. Despite all of the above, this is Innes’ first solo album. Kris Drever says, “There are loads and loads of guitarists in the world but a tiny percentage are good. Innes is really really good!” and I’m not about to argue with Kris when Innes’ dexterity, grace and prowess as a writer and player are written large across this album.

First two tracks, almost by way of an overture are written for Sandy, Innes dad, the man who ‘put a guitar in my hands at four’ “Prelude for Sandy” and “Doo Da.” Both tracks feature an infectious guitar hook, the first is a gentle duet between guitar and fiddle with just a hint of the flying fingers and dexterity to come. The second track repeats a guitar motif while other instruments come and go. Constant and driving but full of sparkles and life is Alyn Cosker’s drumming. “Feds” is an old time American fiddle tune, here re-arranged for guitar. Innes’ guitar opening is a repeating almost minimalist part, that repeats like a Terry Riley or Philip Glass piece, with other instruments building the piece, almost like a snappier Celtic Tubular Bells. It is a delight to listen to. With four guitarists on the track its impossible to identify players, but the tasteful solos and flourishes are sparkling jewels. “Mando Endo” is a slow air, allowing the notes to breathe and the listener to drink in every inflection while Barry Reid’s electric guitar adds ambience. The album is carefully sequenced and the change to the wonderful “Udon Noodle” is an example of where one track flows seamlessly into the next. “Udon Noodle” and “Stubbs” have a harder funkier edge, with some of that attack of Michael Hedges or even a chilled acoustic Joe Satriani. “Waste Not” is another infectious guitar hook and some tasteful fiddle playing. “Waste” ups the tempo with the feel of those jazzy electronic bluegrass fusion albums by Bela Fleck. “Misty The Cat” and “For Queen Nell” recall memories of the tunes composer and the fore mentioned cat and Innes’ Aunt. Alongside the striking imagery and thoughtful sleeve design, the sleeve notes offer insights and amusing asides. Like a cat the tunes are unpredictable with hidden depths. By turns pastoral and sublime then suddenly feisty with harmonics and some more Satriani power chords. Stroke a reclining cats’ belly, when the paw and claws swipe with speed you’ll get a sense of this piece’s moods. “The Wee Dafty” is a hornpipe with a Billy Connolly like name, but daftness aside the jazzy folk playing with a little skank is just perfect. Roger is titled for Roger Bucknell MBE of Fylde Guitars. The track is a showcase for three of his finely made instruments played by Innes, Elliott Morris and Will McNicol with a light as air beautiful cello. Lovely celebration of a master maker, maybe its time for another Flyde Guitars album. With a bass pulse that sounds a little like Julian Lloyd Webber’s classical variations piece used as the theme for the South Bank Show, Glasgow Guitar Colloquium is a bouncing ensemble piece written for the 2011 New Voices concert. Lively, spirited with a real spring in its step its a lively closer to an entertaining and surprising album. Background mood music or layered music you can lean back into, it works as both.