|1||Catch The Wind||2:20|
|2||We Can Work It Out||3:24|
|3||I Wish You Love||2:45|
|4||To Love Somebody||3:27|
|5||Why Can't I?||2:47|
|7||Me And My Shadow||2:15|
|9||The Look Of Love||6:47|
A kind of hush pervades throughout Standards Vol VI, the latest release by The National Jazz Trio of Scotland, the ironically named project helmed by Falkirk’s musical polymath, Bill Wells, that is neither a trio, nor a jazz band. If this collection of ten covers probably comes closest to the latter in its late night renditions of actual standards, the presence of long-term NJToS member and collaborator Aby Vulliamy as the record’s lone vocalist adds to its solitary air. This follows Standards Vol IV (2018), which featured fellow NJToS co-founder Kate Sugden as primary vocalist, while Gerard Black, a member of the group since 2016, took centre stage in similar fashion on Standards Vol V (2019). Wells has long been a fan of Vulliamy, both of her work as a viola player with numerous collaborators, and as a singer.
Vulliamy played viola on Everything’s Getting Older, Wells’ 2011 collaboration with Arab Strap vocalist Aidan Moffat. Wells went on to play melodica on Vulliamy’s solo record, Spin Cycle, released on Karaoke Kalk in 2018. With the intent of producing the saddest heartbreak record ever made, Wells sourced a back catalogue of miniature epics, reinterpreting each tale of everyday yearning to make a canon of melancholy loungecore designed for nights in alone, if not always lonely. Beyond the concept of isolation behind Standards Vol VI, practical concerns added to the affair, with Wells recording backing tracks at home in Glasgow, while Vulliamy added her voice from her home in Yorkshire. The result on Standards Vol VI is a thing of quiet beauty that sees Wells and Vulliamy reimagine a panoply of pop classics in their own aloof sounding image.
Shades of Margo Guryan and Claudine Longet abound in Vulliamy’s delivery over Wells’ woozy, low-slung guitar and piano, with samples culled from a session with Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake. Little electronic percussive clicks and hisses lend things an even more otherworldly air on a record bookended by opener, Donovan’s proto hippy classic, Catch the Wind, and Dixieland miniature, Careless Love. The eight points in between take in a first half led by The Beatles’ normally jaunty We Can Work it Out, flipping the loveable mop-tops’ perky optimism for something more soul searching. This is followed by I Wish You Love, Albert Beach’s English language version of French songwriter Charles Trenet’s evergreen, Que reste-t-il de nos amours. The Bee Gees lost classic, To Love Somebody, is up next, with more impossible to answer questions coming in Why Can’t I?
The latter is a Rodgers and Hart composition that first appeared in the duo’s 1930 Broadway musical, Spring is Here, in which the show’s two heroines commiserate each other over their shared loneliness. Wells stumbled on the song in a tatty Rodgers and Hart songbook, which, like its subjects, had been left on the shelf before he and Vulliamy brought it in from the cold. The second half of Standards Vol VI leads with Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s much covered evocation of a pre dating app era from their 1964 hit musical, Fiddler on the Roof. This is followed by Billy Rose and Dave Dreyer’s showbiz staple (with Al Jolson also taking a credit), Me and My Shadow. While made famous by showbiz double acts ranging from Frank and Sammy to Robbie and Jonathan, here it flies decidedly solo. Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael’s Skylark comes next, a song inspired by Mercer’s yearning for Judy Garland. We hear ya, bub. The most downbeat take on Bacharach and David’s The Look of Love you’re ever likely to hear comes next, ushering in the short farewell of Careless Love, before the lights are turned out forever. Yeah, well. Whatever gets you through the night…