What is it with certain Celtic bands that stirs the soul and sends shivers down the spine? Think Del Amitri, think Stereophonics and then listen to Westerner and find that same intelligent, gritty melodic rock’n’roll throbbing through the lyrically strong material of Edinburgh’s Wynntown Marshals.
The five-piece band, augmented by the excellent keyboard playing of Ali Petrie, feature some fine original songs penned by lead vocalist Keith Benzie. There is a good use of pedal steel from Iain Sloan throughout the eleven tracks on this debut album, particularly prominent on narrative country-rock ballads such as “Gil” and “All That I Want”. Close your eyes and you can see Gram Parsons give a conspiratorial grin at the continuation of the legacy he started with his songs such as “The New Soft Shoe” and “$1000 Wedding”.
It’s in the rockier, more upbeat songs though that the Wynntowns really excel. The LA Guns’ cover “Ballad of Jayne” is treated as a mid-tempo slow-burning rock reminiscent of early 1970s’ Free, leading to a great sustained chorus – Now it all seems funny kinda like things ain’t always what they seem what a shame what happened to Jayne. So too with the album opener, “You Can Have My Heart”, a lively self-penned track that could be the Black Crowes or even a Stones’ track with its wolfish ooh-oohs in the final chorus, redolent of their hypnotic and controversial hit ‘Sympathy for the Devil’.
Westerner is derivative in the best sense of the word. The Wynntown Marshals take from their illustrious musical forebears and forge a sound that is uniquely their own. Their lyrics are contemporary, witty and in some cases inspiring. On this showing, the Wynntowns are most definitely on a winning streak.