Album of the Year: The Dawdler – Keith in Ballachulish

Well it’s that time again. It’s the end of another year and what a lot of amazing albums have been released in 2019. I have been really fortunate to have reviewed a fair few of this year’s stand out releases. None, however, have made as much of an impression on me as my album of the year. Keith in Ballachulish by The Dawdler.

The Dawdler is songwriter John Edgar from Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The Keith in question is a close neighbour of Edgars. This titular song is literally a story he told John about a baby deer eating the flowers from his wife’s grave. Ballachulish, in case you are wondering, is a town on the west coast of Scotland about two hours’ drive north from Glasgow.

John has a distinct knack for writing character driven songs in the most emotive and engaging way I have heard for a long time. Take the song ‘Pete’. When I was reviewing the album, I got so into this song I actually found myself messaging John to find out if Pete and his daughter were real people and if so, were they ok after the car crash in the song. His reply was genius.

“Not exactly. Pete is real but the characters in the other car are made up. The shoes are real. Pete is fine.”

I get too caught up in songs sometimes.

It was ‘Sylvie’ however that cemented this as my album of the year. A song so uplifting yet so short. It really showcases John’s song writing prowess to the full. When he sings “Put your fears with mine, give the demons hell, bloody tooth and nail” you really feel it.

Throughout the album John makes full use of atmospheric electronica and reverb heavy washes of guitar and voice. It reminds me of Sigur Ros and Radiohead. Fans of these bands will be at home right away.

If uncompromising creativity and bold, heartfelt song writing are your thing then I would urge you to seek out this album and give it a home in your heart. For if you do it will repay you for years to come. Each repeated listen reveals something you missed the last time you played it.

Surely that is the best gift any musician could give you?

Mark Anderson

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