Hushman – aka Ewan MacPherson – rolls out a calm and classy set that gently simmers without boiling over.
Release Date: 18th November 2022
Label: Hudson Records
Format: CD / LP / digital
The Liverpool-born, LIPA graduate yet with both feet firmly entrenched in the Scot music scene takes a break from Salt House and Shooglenifty to explore the Hushman persona. One likened to the work of John Martyn and Nick Drake – pause for a moment to consider how that might sound – and for a more contemporary spin Ben Howard.
It’s Ewan MacPherson by the way who heads the project, accompanied by Ben Nicholls and James Mackintosh who provide what we used to call the bass/drum rhythm section but are now much more subtle and decorative. Lauren MacColl and Hannah Read complete the lineup, balancing the gender and contributing subtle musical cameos. With the “ever luminous” (so it says on his Bandcamp page – and who are we to disagree?) Hudson Records adding their sprinkle of magic via Andy Bell, all the elements are in place for what initially appears to be a set that offers a vast breadth and depth. MacPherson has chosen well.
Take It’s All In The Distance that opens the album. An easy chillout vibe – the Ben Howard coming through – right at home on a yacht on the Med, and having been set in that casual cool mood, seduced by the warm strings, we’re climbing the Munros (Scottish peaks over 3000ft…) and capturing a Scottish Highland atmosphere albeit a gently undulating one.
A delightful acoustic tumble and bounce accompany Playing Giants and Duke Henrik. More Martyn than Drake, the latter comes supplemented by those warm strings; the vocal recalling a Dreveresque richness. Possibly the album highlight which segues into The Rising Line, whose increasing pulse also heads into the areas and arrangements you’d find Lau toying with, just missing the O’Rourke fiddle soaring atop and replaced with some more graceful swoops. While we’re on reflections and relations, this track could just as easily be one crooned by Guy Garvey and his Elbow chums; understated and deceptively simple.
The denser arrangement on Bite Of Fire also exudes a vaguely ethnic vibe. As he croons the “in the garden where they call it Eden” line, wibbly wobbly times travel lines hover into view and we’re with good old George Harrison, bringing his Indian influences into The Beatles sessions. It’s a bold one but a perfect example of how Hushman isn’t a one-trick pony, who would settle for doing just one thing well.
The journey towards Remedy For A Hollow Heart brings the Drake/Martyn promises home to roost. A final tale that sounds like it could belong on the heartbreakingly painful Grace & Danger. A reminder of “I’ll tell you what I did to get through“, warms with a sense of hope and brings a buoyant feeling to end proceedings. Beautifully written and played with some gorgeously subtle arrangements that are like Baby Bear’s porridge, chair and bed – just right.