Scotty Alan “Wreck And The Mess” (RIYL Frank Turner, Johnny Cash, Mike Ness, Lucinda Williams)
Marquette, MI – Scotty Alan used to be a punk rocker. This underlying edge and adeptness at delivering emotional immediacy in as few as 84 seconds resides at the core of his remarkable new album Wreck and the Mess.
It’s not necessarily that Alan has mellowed; his music and lyrics, with raspy and expressive vocals, are still bright with energy, still darkly funny at times. But with a fresh rootsy, countrified sound comes a heightened awareness, and an emotional outlook tested and tempered by experience.
The album’s 15 songs, clocking in at 45 minutes, were produced by Bernie Larsen (Lucinda Williams, Melissa Etheridge, Rickie Lee Jones, Jackson Browne, El Rayo-X) and arranged in narrative sequence, reflecting on a relationship gone bad.
From wistful nostalgia (“Remember how when I was Your Hero?”) to downright despair (“…you rot from the inside. You’re a Long Ways From Laughing”). From bemused self-deprecation (“Ain’t Much, but I’m all you got”) to narcissistic cynicism (“the next time I fall in love, I’m gonna Do It Alone”), the album progresses thoughtfully, catching glimpses of life beyond Alan’s own perplexity and loss and congeals it in the dark consoling tenderness of “Barn Dance” (“Life’s a long row you best call the fiddler. As you work the dirt in the valleys and hollows, where all you may leave your loving wife is a widow”).
From questioning his small town contentment in “Dusty Hollow” (“Ain’t there something worth leaving for?”) to his own pensive lament (“Like roots that seek deep dirt, it’s Sinkin’ In”), Alan ultimately punctuates his present journey with the beginnings of romantic rejuvenation that are laced with a snarly trace of his former musical self (“Said I’m looking for ‘Someone To Fight’…the world with”). It’s two minutes on the nose and brings the Mess to a close.
The Wreck recording sessions took place at Larsen’s Spinout studio in Los Angeles with Bernie wrangling together an all-star supporting cast that includes guitarist/fiddle-player David Lindley (Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, Linda Ronstadt, Warren Zevon) guitarist Randy Mitchell (Warren Zevon, Billy Bob Thornton, Donna Summers), bassist David Sutton (Lucinda Williams), drummer Butch Norton (The Eels, Tracy Chapman, Lucinda Williams, Rufus Wainwright), mandolinist Phil Parlapiano (John Prine, Rod Stewart, Josh Freese, Victoria Williams), singer Kristin Mooney (Peter Himmelman, Martin Zellar), musician Jorge Calderón (Warren Zevon, Ry Cooder, Jackson Browne, Pegi Young) and organist Ian “Mac” McLagan (Faces/Small Faces, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt).
Once the star-studded tracks were put to bed, Larsen teamed up with legendary engineer Niko Bolas (Neil Young, Don Henley, Jeff Beck, Circle Jerks) to co-mix the album at L.A.’s Surf Shack before handing off the mixes to Nashville mastering guru Richard Dodd whom is best known for his work with George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and The Traveling Wilburys.
Scotty Alan lives outside the small town of Marquette in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan near the southern shore of Lake Superior. It feels like the middle of nowhere. Living in the Northwoods on ten acres (christened Old Kiln Road Homestead) in a modest off-grid log cabin he’s been slowly augmenting for 19 years (for example, he went through two Number 2 spades to dig out the basement for three solitary months). He takes care of many of his needs himself: hunts deer, fishes, gardens, gathers berries and heats with wood cut from his land.
Buttressed in winter by ten-foot walls of snow, Scotty often finds himself holed up in his homestead, honing his craft and singing in the sauna. He likes solitude but isn’t solitary. Living just two and a half miles from the house he grew up in, he’s part of an extended family, in the area for generations, that has a lot of Finnish blood flowing through it.
Alan says he doesn’t listen to music much, but has been making it since he was 14. Starting out in 1987 in a three-man original punk band called The Muldoons, the group released five albums over the course of a decade. Disbanded and downsized to a self-proclaimed “two-man trio,” the duo forged ahead playing drums with their feet while playing guitars from 2000 to 2005.
For the next five years, Alan continued writing and self-releasing material on his own, playing shows throughout the Midwest and even did a string of performances in clubs and coffeehouses in Amsterdam. In January of this year, Scotty re-connected with Larsen, whom has issued several of The Muldoons releases via his Spinout/RCI Records imprint, and embarked on a trip to L.A., a strange, snowless place, to lay down the tracks for what would become the new album.
Wreck and the Mess is a congruous batch of meticulously crafted songs that provide an unflinching but always humane look at the difficulty of a love lost.