Go Long ScrollerHow long is it since you heard a good song that was funny, or even a funny song that was good? One that wasn’t just whimsical and that you could maybe bear to listen to a second time around? There was a period in the seventies when Loudon Wainwright III, Warren Zevon and the brilliant Shel Silverstein turned out some hilarious songs alongside the serious stuff, but what’s happened since? Well, here’s the good news, it looks like Scott Cook can carry on the tradition. He’s a gifted songwriter, fizzing with boldness and ingenuity, writing about the environment, responsibility, commitment and the world stubbornly refusing to end according to anyone’s timetable. Scott describes “Go Long” as ‘a bunch of silly songs’ that were recorded live in the studio with a few overdubs and corrections later, giving it a fresh and spontaneous feel that works perfectly for the songs.

There are some ‘serious’ songs on the album (“Sweet Maddie Spawton”, “Come This Far”, “That’s Life (Loving You Right Back)” and “While the Party’s Still Going) but the remainder often look at serious subjects through a humorous filter. “Talkin’ Anthropocalypse Blues” typifies this, with a breakneck run through a few inaccurate Armageddon predictions before bringing the song back to the need to take responsibility for our planet, rather than waiting for someone to do it for us. It rattles along like Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue” (written by Shel Silverstein) with barely a chance to draw breath as the failed apocalypse predictions are serially skewered.  “I Live Down Here” sounds like a children’s singalong, with a simple structure, lots of repeated lines and opportunities for audience participation but with a powerful environmental message permeating the nonsense verses.

And some are just funny. The album opens with the sound of a ringpull and the line ‘Judging by the angle of the sun, I’d say it’s beer o’clock” as the band rambunctiously stomp through “Long Weekends Theme”, while “Will the Circle be Unbroken” pokes fun at songs that are past their sing by date; both songs made me laugh out loud on the very first listen, even on a very bad day. “Lifer for a Wifer”, about the impossibility of relationships on the road, is packed with great lines, including ‘And if she can diddle the big bass fiddle, I’ll be wrapped around her strings’.

The sleeve notes suggest that this is a frivolous departure from the main themes of Scott Cook’s songwriting, and while it’s true that there’s plenty of fun on offer, more often than not there’s a serious message lurking. This is an album that will make you smile, probably make you laugh out loud, and should make you think. You don’t often find one of those.

“Go Long” is released on Friday July 8th on Groove Revival (GRP 007).

The sleeve notes also have lyrics, guitar chords and helpful hints from Scott about how he actually played the songs.

Keegan McInroe ScrollerKeegan McInroe seems pretty relaxed about the whole process of touring, in fact he seems pretty relaxed all round. If you listen to his latest album, “Uncouth Pilgrims”, you’ll know that he’s travelled extensively and used his experiences to create some great songs. It’s obvious from the moment you open the door of The Lighthouse on Battersea Park Road that it’s not the ideal gig for a singer/songwriter. It’s Friday night, noisy and full of the ‘few beers after work’ crowd, but Keegan doesn’t seem too bothered; it’s a gig he’s done since his first tour here in 2004 even though the pub has changed hands and function since then. Having a quick chat before the gig, he’s remarkably unfazed by the audience, explaining that he’ll just play a few more covers than usual and some of the songs from the new album.

And that’s just what he did. His own material, mainly from the new album, was slotted fairly evenly into the two sets and included “Lumberjack Blues”, “Give Me the Rain”, “I Got Trouble”, “Flower Song for Barefoot Dancers”, “Nikolina” and “Lay Down”. The stripped-down versions worked beautifully live and the audience didn’t distract too much; there was even a fair smattering of applause around the room.

As for the covers, well, he didn’t put a foot wrong; he even played a couple of unexpected old favourites of mine. There were songs by the songwriting giants (Tom Waits, Townes Van Zandt, Willie Nelson, Neil Young and a tribute to Merle Haggard) and a few less predictable choices. Only three songs in, he made the brave choice of tackling Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia” and, despite a fairly noisy crowd, he made it work. The more esoteric song choices added the spice that made the evening unique; Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Life by the Drop” and Warren Zevon’s “Carmelita” (both stories of addiction) introduced an element of pathos, while Muddy Waters’ “Champagne and Reefer” and Elmore James’ “Dust My Broom” (which closed the second set) gave Keegan the chance to demonstrate his blues licks.

If this gig had been in an established ‘listening room’, the audience chatter would have been hugely distracting, but it was a free gig in a local pub and Keegan took a pragmatic view of the situation, playing to the people who were interested and tuning out those who weren’t. His own songs are well crafted and worked perfectly in the stripped-down format. He’s also a really nice guy.

Uncouth Pilgrims” is released on Friday May 27th