Mike Vass : Save His Calm05.04.2019 : Unroofed Records
Mike Vass is a Scottish composer, songwriter and musician, who brings such craft to his work that listening to one song or tune would usually be enough to create the itch to hear everything he has ever recorded.
Previously associated with traditional music, his new album, Save His Calm, is a looser, jazzier collection of singer-songwriter material; where he might normally score and control every element he has worked with a band and given his temporary cohorts a free creative hand. It is also the first time he has taken lead vocal duties.
Whatever the difference in approach (and there is a short 'making of' video to explain it), the result is nine songs of mellow rapture.
Vass has been a prolific, award winning collaborator and composer, creating projects inspired by something outside of himself, but the songs on this album are all semi-autobiographical; whether fact or fiction they all have a sense of deeper truth running through them. That may in part be circumstantial - he took a long sabbatical in 2017 after a period of illness. Living on a boat, sailing from the Clyde to the Canary Islands, gave him time to reflect and compose the songs using a tenor guitar, and find his own singing voice in the process.
The album opens with They Never Found Me - a gliding chorus sweeps you into the music's graceful flow, and it is difficult to think of anything else you'd rather do other than go with it.
Done with Calling You follows, one of the most quietly uplifting end-of-relationship songs ever written - by its end the case that the music on Save His Calm is exquisitely composed and played is already closed.
The highlight of a remarkably even and cohesive collection is Gate of Saints - which recalls Dylan Thomas' poem Do not go gentle into that good night, as Vass sketches out a story, threaded through with a majestic trumpet part, inspired by an old man he met in hospital. The rue and regret of Just Enough to Let the Light in runs it close, as does the piano/trumpet driven swing and lilt of Fly, a moving waltz through a holiday romance.
This album may be an unexpected step for Mike Vass, but it is a certain one. For all its understated subtlety, Save His Calm is one of the most enchanting and impressively realised sets of songs that will be released this year; and you can try to not sing along, but you will surely fail.
MIKE VASS I They Never Found Me