Lost albums are tricky bastards, aren’t they?
Principally because, more often than not, these records, if they ever emerge, don’t live up to their legends.
James King and the Lonewolves can rightly be regarded as legends and are probably responsible for one of the great lost albums of the Scottish music scene. In the mid 80s the band recorded tracks for an album with no less an individual than John Cale at the helm. But nothing from those sessions was ever released.
Even if they didn’t turn out the way the band had wanted, anyone who saw the band live at the time cannot have helped but lament that the majority of these songs never saw the light of day.
Until now that is as Stereogram has just released the long awaited Lonewolves debut album ‘Lost Songs of the Confederacy’.
But let’s get things straight – whilst ‘Lost Songs of the Confederacy’ is certainly the debut album from James King and the Lonewolves it’s not the debut album that would have been made in the 80s – even if the majority of songs on here would have been on that record.
Yet equally neither is it really a 21st century sounding recording. Rather ‘Lost Songs’ possesses a timeless quality and genuinely could have been recorded at any point over the last 30 years.
Last year’s E.P. suggested that the album may have reflected the rock’n’roll snarl of the band’s harder edged live sound, but in fact instead it owes a lot to the sound of the band’s previous recordings, particularly the ‘Texas Lullaby’ E.P..
The best example of this is probably closing track ‘Step Away From Home’ which is slower than all live takes I’ve heard before. But this take with its chiming guitars just emphasises the strengths of the song and demonstrates that the best songs really don’t need any form of pyrotechnics to make their mark.
As is often the case with songs that you only know from live versions it was initially difficult to listen to the L.P. as a whole particularly since all four of the tracks from the E.P. are included (albeit in slightly tweaked form). But when, after sufficient plays, the record did come into focus as a complete album, it did so gloriously.
Despite the fact that some of these songs were written decades apart, ‘Lost Songs’ is a record that never sounds anything less than incredibly coherent and the newer stuff, such as ‘Pretty Blue Eyes’, fits in alongside the likes of long lost classics such as ‘Fly Away’ and ‘(Un)happy Home’.
There’s a lot been made of the history surrounding ‘Lost Songs of the Confederacy’ – understandably so given the time its taken the Lonewolves to get to this point. But ultimately that history is irrelevant.
‘Lost Songs’ would have been a classic at any point in its 30 years of gestation – so it’s unquestionably a classic today.
‘Lost Songs of the Confederacy’ is available now from all good record shops and from label Stereogram Recordings whilst the band play two gigs in the next week – on Sunday (23rd) at the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh and at the Oran Mor in Glasgow next Thursday (27th). Support comes from Lola in Slacks and Roy Moller.