Douglas MacGregor : Songs of Loss & Healing22 May 2020
Douglas MacGregor's mother died when he was seven; it took twenty-five years before that loss suddenly and overwhelmingly expressed itself, leaving him lost in a mental fog for two years.
The London-based guitarist, who works fluently in the clefts and crannies between classical, folk and experimental music, found solace in grafting through the turmoil by writing new music.
He composed seven pieces and initially recorded each in a setting that had specific emotional resonance for him - so Song for Lost Childhood, a waltzing lullaby of comfort to his childhood self, was committed to tape on the eve of the anniversary of his mother's death at St Mary's, Buckden - a church a hundred metres away from the school he had to leave when she died.
MacGregor was dedicated to his path - he researched ancient musical practice in grief rituals, set up a project to explore the relationship between loss and music further, and essayed on his grief in The Guardian.
As he recorded, he also wrote about the music with profound precision - the website that accompanies the Songs of Loss and Healing has an unparalleled depth of contextual information to explore with each track.
The initial location takes were often raw and immediate. For the album he re-recorded each with German sound engineer Sebastian Ohmert, giving polished performances whilst keeping the music's intimacy, and achieving a sonorous grace. The deep-seated detail Ohmert has captured is remarkable.
MacGregor's wordless songs of pain, lament and eventual hope are hugely successful as emotional communication - the conversation was initially between his wounded psyche and an instrument, but it is now with the listener's own experience. It is hard not to be moved.
In the past, before he went through the extensive process of making this release, MacGregor toured with folk artists Alasdair Roberts, Jim Ghedi, Toby Hay and jazz musicians such as Héloïse Lefebvre. With Songs of Loss and Healing, his third solo album, he has earned a stage of his own.