by James Barker, Senior Writer
With the release of his debut full-length album The Tide Is At The Turning, queer Scottish folk artist Man of the Minch fully welcomes us into his enthralling sonic vision. From the evocative soundscapes of “Mountains” and “Iomallach, Pt.1”, to the catchy synth-pop of “Fallen Man” and “Ordinary” and the stripped-back folk of “The Wall” and “Rosanna”, The Tide Is At The Turning weaves an eclectic mix of musical genres and styles into a cohesive whole.
The album opens on “Mountains”, which starts off sparsely and entrances with looping recitations of the album’s title. The poetry washes over the listener before the song builds a multilayered, electronic soundscape, capturing the sublime peace and rugged beauty of the wilderness where this nature-focused album dwells.
The Tide Is At The Turning is sequenced and paced perfectly, with these extended atmospheric pieces cut with juicy synth-pop and folk ballads. “Ordinary”, aided by the use of Celtic strings on the chorus, is wonderfully buoyant in its celebration of the mundane, joyful in its gentle self-acceptance that “there’s nothing special ‘bout me”. For an album that’s striking for its expansive sonic elements, these humble lyrics are no less smartly-crafted. The album ends on some of these more laid-back songs, allowing for lush experimentation in genre and sound while also demonstrating Man of the Minch’s core as a queer folk singer-songwriter.
Perhaps the album’s most obvious entry point for queer listeners is “Rosanna”. The song tells the story of a man pleading with the mother of the man he loves to let them be together, and was written whilst Man of the Minch was developing Scotland’s Bogha-frois: LGBT+ Voices in Folk project to build a community of queer musicians in folk and traditional music. “Rosanna” is a tender song — at times it’s rhapsodic, at others joyous. In places, it’s compassionate with a mother figure, whilst also displaying vulnerability to the power parents can hold over their children and their relationships: “you hold us to ransom”. The song perfectly captures the tensions between fear and hope, loss and longing, acquiescence and defiance.
This year queer country artists have shown that they’re prepared to take risks, unrestricted by the fences of genre. The Tide Is At The Turning does this with aplomb, and shows that experimenting makes their work no less at home in country or folk.
The Tide Is At The Turning is out now.
Senior Writer James Barker is a PhD student at Newcastle University UK, currently writing a thesis on Dolly Parton. He wants academic work to be engaging and accessible to everyone and to have a real impact on the ground, not least changing country music to be more inclusive. Contact James at email@example.com.