Gavin Livingstone has been part of the folk scene for many years, initially as a very young member of The Skerries, later (mid-80s – 90s) as co-founder of Tonight at Noon, and thereafter to be found enhancing other bands, including Mirk, Handsel and, at present, Arthur Johnstone and The Stars Band.
Gavin’s long-overdue solo album Fire in the Snow was released on the 3rd of June 2019. It contains nine tracks, 8 of which are Gavin’s own compositions, and one by the Scottish songwriter Alistair Hulett.
Fire in the Snow showcases Gavin’s experience and talents as a singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and innovator. Combining gorgeous harmonies, meaningful songs and skilful instrumentation, Fire in the Snow mixes folk and electronic genres to produce ground-breaking music that defies comparison.
“One of the best things I’ve heard this year, it really deserves to be sought out” (Mike Davies Folking .com )
“Your CD is great – made doing the house work easy!” (Hazel Hamilton North Connell)
“An inspired collection of songs” (Five stars) (Steve Johnson Morning Star)
“A true example of musical genius” (Alison Watson Glasgow)
“This is a wide-ranging album, from the jangling folk rock of “Lady Luck” that suggests a kind of new wave Jethro Tull, to the beautiful acoustic sound of “A True Glaswegian” with Gavin sounding like Robin Williamson on this wonderful song of multi-cultural inclusion.
Livingstone, once described as the “Human League of Folk”, successfully, on tracks like “Dearest Nancy”, marries electronics and a folk sensibility to make exciting music. “The Grasscutter” is a fine piece of Folktronica with a rousing dance tune and fine lyrics twisted round bird song and found sounds in a glorious melange. On this track and the expansive “This Desolate Future / The Wilderness”, Gavin takes the spirit of The Imagined Village, Northern Flyway, Bird in the Belly and armed with modern sensibilities, carries the tradition on like a Steeleye Span for the 21st century.
Gavin plays everything on this album – for those who like to unpick what they can hear, there is a list of instruments – but the music is layered with a sense of purpose and is never overblown. With a long career in music and bands stretching back to the 70s, although this is his debut solo album, the experience shines through. Always brimming with ideas, the evocative instrumental “The Wilderness” is a haunting piece of mood music, part Psych Folk, part Pink Floyd’s “Echoes”. “The Uniform” splices and ancient music with a slight waft of “Within You, Without You” to something more urban and disquieting in a song about the pervasive Western influence.
There is something exciting about Gavin’s vocals against layers of electronics and acoustic instruments ,more a cross between The Incredible String Band and The Pet Shop Boys than Phil Oakey. Alistair Hulett’s “Don’t Sign up for War”, with Gavin’s arrangement from Pitheid Production’s “Rent Strike” show, is as dark and sombre as John Martyn’s “Don’t You Go”. “The Waverly Line”, a contender for track of the album, takes the cut up ambience of Public Sector Broadcasting, with the voices of staff on the train line providing contextual textures, and the Folktronica spirit of Scottish band Niteworks. Sprinkling over the top – Gavin’s fleet fingered acoustic guitar. Gavin’s 80s band Tonight at Noon used to play “Waters on the Sand”. There is something of Dave Gilmour’s guitar from “Another Brick in the Wall” in this, and a career teaching Secondary level Maths informs the lyrics. A great slab of guitar and rock drums with some dark imagery at the end of a surprising and engaging album.
This is atmospheric music as warming and charged as the travellers’ solitary protecting fire in a foreboding and dark wintery landscape
(Marc Higgins Fatea magazine)
Fire In The Snow
Private Label GAVCD01
For an artiste with a hefty track record and key contributions to numerous bands, it is a surprise to me that this is Gavin’s first completely solo album. With the exception of the inclusion of an Alistair Hulett song, all are original compositions – and he has contributed all instrumentation, vocals and arrangements – which is ridiculously time consuming and notoriously difficult to pull off. His touching song about immigration, A True Glaswegian, is thought provoking, and at times both tender and uplifting. The passing of a hundred years since WW1 has saturated the folk scene with songs relating to that conflict, but one of the better ones here, Hulett’s Don’t Sign Up For War, is as poignant as any (“A bayonet, that’s a weapon wi’ a workin’ man at either end”, paraphrasing John MacLean).
The Waverley Line, written in celebration of the renewed borders railway (although it was only in the planning stage when the song was written), is another cracker, and even includes spoken dialogue, reminiscences of folk who remember the line first time around before the Beeching cuts led to its demise in 1969. Mind you, the dialogue comes along with music that could have been sampled from The Beatles’ Revolution 9 (and who would want to do that). Otherwise NO complaints about this one. The epic medley, This Desolate Future/The Wilderness, joins together a wistful but respectful reflection on the hardships previous generations had to endure, with a brilliant tune that is a perfect counterpoint to the preceding song.
This is an album that improves with repeated listening. Give it a chance and you will be rewarded.