Aberdeen singer-songwriter CS Buchan has released an album of collaborations that is both a recognition of his musical friendship and a platform for the thriving north-east scene.
Embracing multiple genres from alt-folk and pop to blues and Americana, CS Buchan and Friends is out now on the Granite City-based Fitlike Records.
In recent years CS Buchan, aka Charley, has been half of the acclaimed Best Girl Athlete alongside 18-year-old daughter Katie.
The duo have released two albums, the most recent last year’s eponymous Best Girl Athlete.
Initially, the fledgling songs on CS Buchan were intended for the Best Girl Athlete but they did not fit with the feel of that album – so Charley decided to go in an entirely different direction by calling on friends from as far afield as the United States.
Legendary Baltimore-based musician Brendon Massei, aka Viking Moses, appears on track Losing the Race.
Charley said: “The new album originally started off as a cluster of songs that were intended for inclusion on the second Best Girl Athlete album, but it was apparent that they were a bit different and didn’t really fit in with the direction of that album.
“I just left the songs for a while until I started toying with the idea of having guest vocalists, to see what they could bring to them.
“Most of the recording was done in my house, although recording the vocals did mean a bit of travelling around.
“In the case of the United States-based singers they recorded their contributions overseas then sent it on.
“With Iona Fyfe I travelled to the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow and with Pete Harvey and Liz Russo we used Pete’s studio in Bridge of Earn. “That certainly gave the tracks a distinct feel from one another. I’m delighted with the result.”
From start to finish it took around a year for Charley to complete the album which includes collaborations with Steven Milne of Aberdeen indie stars The Little Kicks and Traditional Singer of the Year finalist Iona Fyfe. The Tryptamines musical mastermind Chemical Callum, a former winner of the international Independent Music Award (IMA) also features.
“The collaborations came about through genuine musical friendships, it’s as simple as that,” he said. “These are all individuals I have worked with or alongside in some capacity and it felt quite natural to ask them to be part of the project.
“The American artists were people we had met on tour in the USA and had maintained a relationship with afterwards. Others were friends through Fitlike Records or from performing live over the years. “Obviously most of these people are from or have connections to the north-east, so I guess this album is quite a unique platform for north-east talent.”
Did working with his friends offer up a sense of freedom and musical autonomy?
“Absolutely,” said Charley.
“I’ve loved not having an agenda, not having a style that needed to be kept in check.
“I always knew that somebody coming in and putting their stamp on a song could flip it on its head and that’s what’s so exciting about working with other people.
“With Best Girl Athlete, there was a distinct sound we were working towards, but when you take away the expectations, it’s extremely liberating.
“This collection of songs really does straddle quite a few genres and on paper, probably shouldn’t work, yet it somehow does. It’s important to get the album produced sympathetically, so there was still a common thread throughout, and a large part of that was down to Ciaran McGowan from Miss Lucid.
“He really added life to the tracks.”
Musically CS Buchan and Friends is a stunning validation of the talent within the north-east.
The cover also pays affectionate tribute to Aberdeen broadcaster and performer June Imray as Charley, resplendent in white suit jacket, recreates the cover of Imray’s 1976 hit album The Torry Quine.
Charley said: “That photo was taken some time ago, simply as a bit of a homage to June Imray.
“It’s a fairly iconic album cover in the north-east and we had great fun trying to find the exact location and a similar outfit.
“I knew I would use it for something at some point and it just seemed right to use it for this.
“The reaction to the cover has been amazing, people seem to really appreciate the sentiment.
“However, I understand that it may seem fairly odd and cheesy to anyone who is not familiar with the original.
“Perhaps, it will encourage folks to go out and listen to some June Imray, which can’t be a bad thing.”
A song-writing masterclass, CS Buchan and Friends is the latest release on Charley’s Fitlike Records that has offered a voice to unique and visionary artists such as psych folk legend Kitchen Cynics (aka Alan Davidson), Death Let Her, The Great Bear, Tryptamines and Wendell Borton.
Charley said: “With the label, there have been three Fitlike Records releases submitted for this year’s Scottish Album of the Year Award (Kitchen Cynics, Tryptamines and Best Girl Athlete).
“It would be wonderful to see some of those make the shortlist and get some north-east musicians the recognition they deserve and show the rest of the country that we are right up there with the rest.
“I actually feel like I’m currently at a bit of a crossroads as I’ve had the label for about five years now.
“Although it’s brought me great pleasure, it’s also been a bit of a financial drain, so I’m trying to figure out what’s the best way to go forward.”
Charley has organised a number of shows to promote the new album and is looking at the possibility of putting a band together for a tour to take the songs to a wider audience.
He also hopes to play some shows in Europe to promote an album of collaborations.
However is there anyone that he’s still keen to work with?
“I played a show at the Society of Advocates a few months back and invited an artist from Glasgow who performs under the name Heir of the Cursed,” he said.
“She performed a track with me before doing her own set and she was absolutely mesmerising.
“We’ve spoken since about possibly doing something together and I’m really keen for something to happen from this.
“I’ve also been chatting to hip-hop artist Jackill about doing some music together, so there’s always something on the go.”