Malcolm MacWatt has already gained intrnational recognition for his powerful song-writing. As a solo performer, swapping out his telecaster for an acoustic guitar, his story-telling comes to the fore, often with brutal clarity and his previous releases have received glowing reviews. Hailing from the North of Scotland, he has worked on the North Sea offshore oil platforms, as a newspaper journalist, in education and now lives in London.
SKAIL – Malcolm MacWatt (Independent Release July 4, 2020)
SKAIL – an old Scots word meaning to disperse, scatter and sail over water – sees MacWatt weaving traditional Scottish yarn into the fabric of Americana for his third 2020 studio release.
The EP features three songs with the Appalachians, evictions, hardship and independence at their heart and is a meeting of Scottish and American roots music with MacWatt playing all instruments throughout.
Written and recorded at the height of the coronavirus lockdown from his home in south-east London, MacWatt found himself longing for the fresh air, clean water, open spaces, familiar faces and above all the safety of Morayshire where he grew up.
During the weeks of isolation he happened across an article about the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Georgia up the east coast of America to Maine, which now includes the Scottish Highlands due to ancient geological links going back millions of years.
Coming from the Moray Firth with the northern mountains of the Black Isle an everyday skyline, the stories of the Highland Clearances were already well known to him but in the context of a pandemic, together with the tragic narratives surrounding UK immigration, he felt compelled to explore the connections between Scottish emigration to the New World in the 18th Century and the roots of country and americana music.
“The Crofter and The Cherokee” links the Highland Clearances with the Trail of Tears as a Georgia native travels back in time tracing his family roots up the Appalachian Trail and across the Atlantic to Scotland. In this song the fiddle motif represents Scotland with the banjo and resonator guitar sounding off for America.
“The Widow and The Cruel Sea” is the story of a woman who loses her fisherman husband at sea and is desperate to escape the social confines of a young widow in a Highland village to start a new life in the American colonies.
“Old World Rules and Empire Takes” looks at British rule over the Eastern seaboard of America. It touches on the Battle of Kings Mountain, a crucial skirmish in the War of American Independence, where forces for the Crown, led by Major Patrick Ferguson from Aberdeenshire, were defeated by settlers, many of whom would also have been of Scottish descent. The song ends with the line “Scottish blood in American clay” to acknowledge those trans-Atlantic ties.
MacWatt, who plays guitar, fiddle, resonator guitar, banjo and bodhran on the EP, said: “SKAIL very much reflects me as an artist: I’m a mixed-race Scot with a deep appreciation for the traditional music of Scotland but who is heavily influenced by American folk and roots. The songs almost wrote themselves, in fact there’s times I felt voices long gone were whispering in my ear.”