Colin Macleod – Hold Fast: Album Review

Widescreen anthems from the Hebridean Springsteen, Colin Macleod

Release Date:  18th June 2021

Label: SO Recordings

Formats: CD / MP3 / Vinyl

Colin Macleod leads an interesting and highly varied life.  By day, he’s a farmer who grows vegetables and tends his sheep at his croft on the Hebridean Isle of Lewis.  But that’s by no means the whole story. He’s also a singer/songwriter of no mean ability, with a penchant for producing music that includes Springsteen-like widescreen rock anthems, alongside gentle, introspective folk ballads. All of which reflect his outlook on and interpretation of life’s experiences.

Colin first left his island home in 2009 and forged a reputation for himself on the Scottish alt-folk scene.  He was spotted playing a gig in Aberdeen pub – an encounter that led to the release of Fireplace, his first recorded work, in 2010, under the name of The Boy Who Trapped The Sun.  That first experience left him exhausted and homesick and he returned to Lewis to regroup and to realise how his situation on that remote island provided him with the material and inspiration to continue with his writing. The result was the debut album under his own name, Bloodlines, released in 2018.  Since then Colin has grown – in reputation and by experience – and has performed with such luminaries as Roger Waters, Robert Plant, and, particularly significant as far as this new album is concerned, Sheryl Crow.

Hold Fast is an album characterized by strong melodies, sung in a strong, clear voice that can work the whole continuum between that of the surly country balladeer to something close to Roy Orbison in full, dramatic flow.  The album has rock, bombast and riffs, but it’s also got melodies, harmonies and introspection.  If you have a liking for Springsteen, Emmylou Harris, Michael Nesmith or Neil Young in his American Stars ‘n’ Bars guise, there’ll be something here for you.

The album’s first single, and, in some ways, its centrepiece is Old Soul, a duet with Sheryl Crow who’s been a supporter of Colin since they toured together in 2018. It starts in a contemplative mood but which grows into a potentially crowd-pleasing anthem with some nice piano and guitar touches. 

But album this isn’t just a one-trick pony.  Other delights include the Long Road, another of the album’s singles. A great slice of country rock, laced with twangy guitar and some nice pedal steel licks where Colin excels himself with a wonderful vocal performance.  Sleep is a slow, loud, almost bluesy number with a BIG chorus and a bridge riff that is highly addictive.  By contrast, Made Of Stone is a gentle acoustic country ballad that allows Colin to demonstrate the softer extreme of his vocal range. 33, the second of the album’s duets with Sheryl crow is even quieter…  Reminiscent of Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell’s classic The Traveling Kind, it’s an excellent song with great lyrics that question the lifestyle of a working musician. Note: Colin insists that the lyrics are NOT autobiographical!

And those are just a few highlights – the list goes on!  Warning Signs, the album’s third single is loud and rocky with discernable traces of a Runrig influence; Runaway is the album’s most Springsteenesque number and Looking For God returns to the mood of introspection with its strong lyric that includes lines like “Are you looking for God?  I didn’t know that he was missing.”

The closing track This Old Place is another excellent song. The lyrics, a plea for company in a strange environment, reflect an emotion that we’ve all felt at some time or another. They will be gruelingly familiar to anyone whose lifestyle or professional obligations regularly place them in that situation. And the tune is anthemic – the perfect closer to a most enjoyable album.

Watch the official video of Old Soul, Colin’s duet with Sheryl Crow, featured on the album, here:

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