King Creosote, Emma Pollock and various leading lights
of the Scottish-Canadian folk-scene collide for an inconvenient
but no less sweet sounding truth.
You, like me, probably watch the interminable reruns
of the Band Aid video every Christmas and sit there
thinking, ‘who’s that with the lanky blonde hair, and
him, who’s that?’ Any gravitas the Band Aid supergroup
had enjoyed seems to have diminished with every bauble
we’ve ever put back in the box, every hangover we’ve
ever conquered and with every cracker we’ve ever pulled.
The band is now no more glitzy than the frayed strip
of tinsel we’ve been dragging over the mantel since
we were four. The Burns Unit, on the otherhand
are a Supergroup (of sorts) whose light may never be
dimmed, principally because the light of the individual
members was never that bright in the first place. And
this could be to their benefit.
King Cresote, Emma Pollock, Karine
Polwart, Future Pilot AKA, Kin Edgar,
Mattie Foulds, MC Soom T and Michael
Jonhston might not fall into the Dave Grohl, Josh
Homme and John Paul Jones category (or even the Siobhan
Fahey, Glenn Gregory or Tony Hadley category) but their
combined weight has produced one of the most solid releases
“It's a supergroup made up of people who haven't had
proper commercial success”, explains Kenny Anderson,
aka King Creosote, "we formed it ten years early, assuming
one of us goes on to achieve great infamy. It's like
just answering a random ad in a music magazine, like
accordion player wanted, but everybody in the same band
answered the same ad. I would never have considered
playing with Karine Polwart, our paths have never crossed,
but it works really well together. Two slightly different
Scottish voices that fit."
The band – a prodigious cabal of A-List Scottish folk
heroes and battle-scarred indie veterans (Delgadoes,
BMX Bandits, The Orb) came together by accident, arising
as a result of a one-week songwriting retreat - called
"Burnsong" - held in rural Scotland in December 2006.
Each musician arrived with virtually no connections
to or knowledge of one another.
"Together, we're such a mish-mash of personalities
and styles", says Johnston, "We had no right to have
gotten along as well as we did, let alone form a band
and make an album! We often joke that we're the band
nobody asked to be a member of."
Producer, Mattie Foulds explains that each member was
allowed to contribute songs, have others tear it apart
and yet still have the freedom to do it how they would
have done it rather than conform to some new super dynamic;
a whole that retains the sum and the flavour of its
And what about the risks of coming together in such
a casual and random way, wasn’t there a chance it could
all collapse quite easily, that they’d all be pulling
in different directions musically?
"If you're playing notes all at different times, there's
more of them, so people are getting more music for their
money,” laughs Kenny Creosote, “there can't be anything
BUT musical differences as the individual styles are
so diverse. You either join in if you like it or you
can play it or you sit it out."
The end result is ‘Side Show’ - a bustling, generous
carnival of accordions, acoustic guitars, sea-tossed
percussion and tinkling pianos at dawn, guided by the
sweetest of voices and melting into the gentlest of
targets. The closest port of call is likely to be this
years, Hazards of Love’ by The Decemberists, the tumultuous
‘Since We’ve Fallen Out’ fleshing out the puckish Celtic
fairytale with bagfuls of tough love and experience.
Leave the Band Aid to sores and bruises and invest
in a more lasting cure. For burns or otherwise.