Luc McNally – Night Off

Album Review | Self Release | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5

Glasgow-based singer, guitarist and bouzouki player Luc McNally releases his delightful debut album, which consists of eight songs and tunes, some traditional, one or two self-penned while the others are borrowed from such notable sources as Mark Oliver Everett and Randy Newman. As with most debut albums, the material has been collected and developed over what the County Durham-born musician describes as “a very busy few years”. Having already clocked up some notable landmark achievements such as being one of the recipients of the Molloy Award at Trip to Birmingham Tradfest (2017) with Iona Fyfe’s Trio and reaching the final of the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year Award twice in subsequent years, McNally has made some giant steps in a potentially fruitful career thus far and Night Off marks what could very well be the beginning of a successful stint as a solo artist.

If “Grace Kelly Blues” served as a fine opener to The Eels’ Daisies of the Galaxy album two decades ago, then it makes a fitting return here, doing precisely for Night Off as it did for The Eels, minus the brass band. Obviously a keen flat picker, McNally’s take on Norman Blake’s “Church Street Blues” favourably delivers on its promise, with the very essence of the Woodstock Mountains captured, whilst Randy Newman’s “I Think it’s Going to Rain Today” is a stripped down to basics performance, sounding very much like a home made demo. The instrumentals are all well performed and demonstrate an empathetic team effort, whilst Michael Marra’s self-probing “The Beast” is almost solo barbershop in its multi-layered a cappella harmonies. With most successful solo albums, having the assistance of a small collective of collaborators is not essential but good when you can get it and here McNally is joined by Graham Rorie on fiddle and mandolin (who also produces), Charlie Stewart on double bass, Stephen Henderson on drums and percussion, with further contributions courtesy of Innes Watson and Rufus Huggan on fiddle and cello respectively. A fine debut.

Choice Track: Church Street Blues (NSV 501)