There was a nice four song ep from David Latto a year or so back that featured a charming song about Thomas Fraser, Three Thousand Miles From Nashville. There was enough in that ep to suggest that this was a young fellow who was taking his songwriter craft seriously, but hardly enough to prepare you for the fact that his first full album as The David Latto Band is quite masterly - a warm, rich work of great substance, suffused with that aching longing that Scottish Americana bands do so well.
David hails from Fife but everything about this album – from the dime novel cowboy artwork onwards – suggests a long love affair with American culture and mythology. Banjo and fiddle feature in the band’s line-up but the influence on the sound seems to be one step removed from the bluegrass roots. Rather, I’m put in mind of the sort of album the likes of Peter Rowan or Norman Blake might put out, or, from more recent times, Eric Brace and Peter Cooper. In fact, the one cover amongst these ten songs is a fine version of Herb Pedersen’s Wait a Minutewhich Brace and Cooper covered themselves on a recent album, and I have a sneaking feeling that this is where David Latto picked it up from.
At the heart of The David Latto Band is a productive partnership between David and Gavin Brady, though I note that the writing is credited to the whole band. Three things really stand out about this album; first, there is the nicely mature writing with strong songs that seem like a considerable development from that first ep. The format might be American, but the subject matter is home grown, and I like that combination a lot. The odd song sounds like it might date from the early days – Rollin’ On , for example – but the skilful, sincere treatment it gets here buries any underlying naivety. Secondly, there are the vocals. This man has got a really lovely voice, on the soulful side of country/folk and with beautiful control. He takes his time and really lives the song as he performs it; he’s great all the way through, but Song You’ll Never Hear is a particular highlight, right up there with some of my favourite singers. As if David’s voice wasn’t enough of a treat, the harmony singing from Gavin Brady is spot on, hitting that sweet spot of relaxed control that just carries the listener away. Thirdly, the other guys. Jim Hyndman plays dobro, fiddle and mandolin, Atholl Fraser plays bass and John Alexander is on drums. All three are right in tune with the vibe that’s being created here, a laid-back, easy-flowing Americana sound that, for all its relaxed air, has real character and soul. As if to demonstrate that they’re not totally fixated on the blue side of life, the album closes with a rousing singalong drinking song, God, I’m Drinking Tonight, that tops things off nicely. Very highly recommended.