Letters to Judas
Andy lang With The zealots 'The moon is asleep, she is blind...' He came to Edinburgh from Glasgow, by the long road, through Dundee and Fife. But he never wrote a road song until he saw Ontario. 'Here she comes, that sweet road again, all tarmac and miles...' He drove up through Ontario to Quebec in the back of an open top, with a case of beer, some smokes and a couple of friends, and all he could see ahead or behind was road, tarmac vanishing into blue, endless sky. Andy Lang met George in Ottawa, and an old First Nation guy with a crazy dog called Peaches. It came close to a fist fight, over the wearing of a 'skirt' (a kilt - wedding duty that day) but good sense and heavy drinking prevailed, and friends were made. George kept showing up at Andy's gigs and talked him into staying in town a few extra days to play a block party. George talked like Waits after an all-night poker game and gave the impression that his days were numbered. Anyhow, he kicked Andy's arse and told him to get his songs recorded, sooner's always better than later, and 10 months later, LETTERS TO JUDAS was born. 'Hit that dead man's curve, just to see if you can steer...' 1991, LITTLE GREEN MONKEYS, 'Crisis In The Treehouse'; an album with fiddler Mhairi O'Neil; it was kind of 'punk folk'; had 'more affinity with The Sex Pistols than with Jeannie Robertson' according to The Scotsman. But LETTERS is different. 15 songs, acoustic/roots music, transatlantic fusion with a rock'n'roll heart. 'I got a hungry spirit and a restless heart and a fire inside of me...' He added slide guitar and fiddle, peddle steel and piano; electric guitars and accordion, drums and bass, percussion and mandolin. Vocals from Inge McIlroy and Hazel Morrison (ex-Bathers) and everything between country and rock, bluegrass, folk and Americana. And 'Southern Cross' is haunted by Rory Campbell's Border pipes. These are people songs, tales of lost love and disenchantment, loneliness and the road. 'He'd sit and stare at the wreck of an old car, wonder if he could live there, wonder if he could sleep there, wonder what she'd say...' There's been plenty of national airplay, and a live appearance on BBC Radio Scotland's Arts Show. 'Do you know how to dance, do you know how to spin, do you know how to rock and how to reel?' Andy Lang played Edinburgh's Queen's Hall with a host of other musicians in December 2003, dueting with Karine Polwart on Shane McGowan's 'Fairytale of New York'. The gig went out live on BBC on Christmas Day 2003, repeated on New Year's Day 2004. It was recorded by Connecticut's Green Linnet label and released under the title COLD BLOW THESE WINTER WINDS. It features two tracks from Andy, including his own 'Lullaby'. 'She was on the phone, crying a river of tears into a river of piss that was shining on the stone...' Work's begun on a second album, working title STEPS, rawer, more stripped down, more electric. Some Edinburgh tales of lust, romance and strangeness; grunge poetry. 'Your cousin's second cousin, she's called Sweet Marie, they say she's full of honey, but I don't think she's sweet on me' There's currently 5 Zealots when they're all there, but solo gigs happen too, as well as duo, trio and four-piece line ups, whatever works for the occasion. Andy opened for Irvine Welsh with a solo set during The Leith Festival 2005. 'I made a telephone call to Bernie boy He's got 2000 dollar teeth He picked up in a phone booth Out on Davis St He talks just like a brother of mine Full of sweet relief And I'm stuck between where I've been And a state of disbelief' NEWS AND REVIEWS Andy Lang with the Zealots Letters to Judas *** Scottish folk music polished up for the 21st century Should you wish to book Andy Lang with The Zealots, and it would be a very good idea to do so, I suggest that you make sure the stage is big enough. For the recording LETTERS TO JUDAS The Zealots numbered 17. Anyone who says that the traditions of Auld Reekie and the brash metropolis of Glasgow are at odds with each other should think again; Glasgow-born Lang has joined forces with Edinburgh's finest musicians to produce an album of folk music Scotland can be proud of. For too long the dark passions of Scotland's music have been buried under a welter of shortbread tins. The perceptions from outside may be of a rather twee Brigadoon, whose house-band consisted of Andy Stewart and Jimmy Shand, but the reality is that Scotland has a wild and bloody past and it's music reflects that. And for those who are wondering just what that marvelously evocative instrument on Southern Cross is, welcome to the Border pipes. As a resident of that region I can tell you that it's haunting sound conjures up perfectly the rugged romanticism of the Borders, particularly in the hands of the excellent Rory Campbell. But LETTERS TO JUDAS achieves what all folk music strives to but rarely does. It absorbs and assimilates different influences, country, bluegrass and blues are all added in various degrees to what becomes a most delightful end product. Southern Cross for instance was inspired by a film about white supremacists, not your usual folk music source material. However the imagination of Lang invigorates and energises this most traditional of music styles. While the 'evergreen' subjrects of death, betrayal and honour are not ignored, love is the emotion most powerfully expressed. Matters of the Heart and Hearts are two of the warmest and sincere romantic ballads you're likely to hear. The richness of Lang's voice wraps around them like a comfort blanket. While folk music is sometimes charged with taking itself too seriously, LETTERS TO JUDAS skilfully avoids that trap. Do You Know is the roistering universal soundtrack of a good time. A glorious celebration of the unbreakable links between folk and country. By it's nature, but more importantly by inclination, LETTERS TO JUDAS is built around tradition. But it is not submerged by the past, the music is as fresh and alive as you would expect from 18 of Scotland's finest musicians. LETTERS TO JUDAS is more about what's ahead than what's gone before. MM MAVERICK MAGAZINE (THE NEW VOICE OF COUNTRY MUSIC) DECEMBER 2004.