Interview by Gig Scene Editor Graham Chalmers
Let’s get this said straightaway, I have my reservations about Del Amitri.
Having caught them live a few times in the 90s, there’s no doubting they could play but they were always a bit lacking in charisma.
What I never had any doubts about, however, was the talent of this successful band’s lead singer Justin Currie.
As both a songwriter and a singer, Currie is one of the best these islands have produced in the past 20 years.
You may question this opinion but a music legend who has written the likes of McArthur Park and Witchita Lineman doesn’t.
Jimmy Webb’s new album of duets, Still Within The Sound of My Voice, is released later this month.
Along with Brian Wilson, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Joe Cocker, Art Garfunkel, Lyle Lovett and Carly Simon, the collection also features Justin Currie on guest vocals.
Talking to me in the build-up to his show at Harrogate’s Royal Hall in just a week’s time, this modest Scotsman explained how it happened.
“I think I was asked to sing on it because the producer is a big fan of mine. The album is all superstars – except me!
“Jimmy has said nice things about me in the sleeve notes, which I’m thrilled about.”
Growing up as a youngster in Glasgow, Currie remembers well the first time he heard McArthur Park.
But, as fans of Del Amitri and Currie’s solo albums will realise, his biggest musical influences lay closer to home.
“Everyone I knew in Glasgow had an Irish parent or Irish granny.
“The Irish have a real affinity with country music which I think explains a lot about bands and musicians who come from the city.”
Currie tells me he briefly moved to London under the spell of a particular girlfriend at the height of Del Amitri’s fame,
But, he adds, he never felt he actually lived there and Glasgow soon drew him back.
Roots lie heavy not only on Currie’s music but most of Scotland’s output, from Big Country to Travis, Jesus & Mary Chain to Paolo Nuttini.
Like me, he believes the essential difference between music north and south of the border is the Celtic influence.
“Traditional sounds were unspeakably naff when I was a kid but it kind of gets into your psyche.
“I think the folk influence and country influence permeates all Scottish music.
“English bands like Pulp have a wistfulness but there’s not that bitterness, that epic, melancholic feeling you get in Scottish music.
“Maybe it was the country dancing lessons they made us do at primary school!”
Not that Currie has ever considered himself a ‘folk act.’ He will be playing both solo tracks from his new album Lower Reaches and Del Amitri hits like Always The Last To Know and Nothing Ever Happens at the Royal Hall on Saturday, September 14.
And the door is not closed on his old band reforming at some point, either, he says.
“I still feel like the guy in Del Amitri. I don’t imagine we won’t have a reunion. It’s just a matter of somebody offering us something to do it.”