12 tracks: Aberfan * Who Wrote The 12-Bar Blues * The Velvet Path To Glory * Thoughts From A Trench * Going Back To Georgia * My Ship Is Sailing Tomorrow * Back To The South * Hiroshima * Louisiana Lad * Ah Wis Like That * People Cannot Choose * Walk A Mile In His Shoes.
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Glaswegian A C (Alex) Weir releases his debut album at 77 years of age!
The music business has been transformed in the last couple of decades, but one of the plus points of the new digital landscape must surely be that technology makes it possible now for a man of 77, who had only previously performed at family gatherings, to release his debut album.
All the songs on This Has Been Me Since Yesterday were written by Alex Weir, a Glaswegian who in his spare time accumulated a significant body of work over the years. Original versions of his songs were recorded on an old reel-to-reel tape recorder at various points from the mid-1960s to the early 1990s, but were never designed for public consumption.
The decision to recreate them in a modern studio setting was taken after a conversation between Alex and his two sons in the autumn of 2016. The subsequent recording sessions took place over the next nine months whenever, time, health and finances allowed.
The Weir boys called in a number of musical contacts to flesh out the material and bring the professional sheen which is evident throughout the album. Their Dad’s original demos have a charm of their own, but the re-recorded versions take the songs to a new level. It has taken a long time, but Weir’s songs have finally been given the platform they always deserved.
The title of the album is a phrase (once quoted in a sketch by Billy Connolly) that is common among Glaswegians of a certain age. It would generally be used by two people meeting on the street, each comparing notes on how busy they have been. “This has been me since yesterday” might be countered with “Aye, I’ve not sat down since I got up…”.
Standout tracks include Aberfan (written in the immediate aftermath of the Welsh mining disaster in 1966); My Ship Is Sailing Tomorrow (a powerful ballad about a man wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he did not commit) and Going Back To Georgia (a beautifully melancholic piece featuring some stunning mandolin and pedal steel guitar from Danny Mitchell, who co-wrote Midge Ure’s 1986 number 1 smash-hit If I Was).
Ah Wis Like That (another choice Glaswegian phrase) explores the comical antics of a chancer in search of sexual adventure, while other tracks such as Hiroshima and Velvet Path To Glory feature an anti-war theme.
The standout track though could be the epic Thoughts From A Trench (narrated by a young soldier waiting for instructions to go into battle and meet his almost certain doom). For a man of 77, Weir delivers stunning and passionate vocals which, as it reaches the last emotive line “God help me… I don’t want to die”, will leave not a dry eye in the house.
The one exception in this collection is the last track, Walk A Mile In These Shoes. It was felt by the Weir boys that it would be nice to include one of their Dad’s original recordings and, apart from a little bit of tweaking and hiss management, the piece is retained, raw and unadorned.
Towards the end of the recording process, Alex was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), a progressive brain disorder which impacts on behaviour, cognition and movement. LBD presents itself through a range of symptoms, including problems with thinking, memory and visual hallucinations. One of its characteristics is that it can become rapidly debilitating and, since the album was completed, Alex has deteriorated to the point where he now requires full-time nursing care.
This Has Been Me Since Yesterday represents a lifetime of songwriting and is probably one of the few times that a 77-year-old will have made his recording debut. You can’t help but wonder what might have happened had some of these songs managed to get out into the public domain when they were originally written. Greentrax is honoured to be invited to release the album.
The album was recorded at Stealth Studios, Glasgow, between October 2016 and September 2017 by Eddie MacArthur. Artwork is by Raymond Weir and Eddie MacArthur. Session musicians are Raymond Weir (guitar, keyboards, harmonica, drums, backing vocals), Graham Weir (drums, percussion), Douglas Wilson (bass), Fraser Sneddon (bass), Peter McAteer (electric guitar), Danny Mitchell (pedal steel guitar, mandolin), Anne Morgan (violin, viola) and Tony McCaffrey (backing vocals).
Read Raymond Weir’s blog post about the making of the album.