Green Peppers: Retrospectively Yours – album review
Green Peppers – Retrospectively Yours
(You Are The Cosmos)
LP (limited edition)
Jim McCulloch has long been regarded with huge respect and affection amongst musicians in the Glasgow/Lanarkshire indie scene, yet the Motherwell-born guitarist has somehow managed to successfully hide his considerable talents from wider recognition. The new album by Green Peppers may rectify this.
A founder member of both The Soup Dragons and BMX Bandits, McCulloch also lent his sublime guitar skills to the ill-fated Superstar, fronted by his friend Joe McAlinden (ex-Groovy Little Numbers) and in recent years has played and toured with Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan as well as playing on and contributing songs to Campbell’s albums. McCulloch is also a current member of BMX Bandits and is the songwriting force behind folk-rock outfit Snowgoose, fronted by the exquisite vocals of Anna Sheard.
Snowgoose’s ‘Harmony Springs’ (2012) was a stunning debut album, but there is a pre-history to that watershed that’s rooted in the three albums McCulloch recorded under the name Green Peppers from 2004-2008. ‘Retrospectively Yours’ is a sublime, vinyl-only compilation that acts as a sampler for ‘Joni’s Garden’, ‘Domino Mornings’ and ‘Adventures in the Slipstream’, all of which are scheduled to be reissued digitally on March 31st.
2004’s ‘Joni’s Garden’ was McCulloch’s first foray into solo singer-songwriter territory. The quality of the songwriting was immediately obvious, as McCulloch instantly found his groove with his own trademark style influenced by 60s folk from both sides of the Atlantic, bossa nova, Bacharach and jazz innovators such as Alice Coltrane.
McCulloch’s vocals were the real surprise, hushed and intimate with an almost McCartney-esque melodic sensibility. Despite this, McCulloch brought on board guest vocalists Justin Currie (Del Amitri) and Isobel Campbell, both of whom feature on this compilation.
Having set out his stall to great effect on ‘Joni’s Garden’, McCulloch came to the realisation that many of his songs were ideally suited to the female voice, and the next two albums, ‘Domino Mornings’ and ‘Adventures in the Slipstream’ further expanded on the Green Peppers template, with a variety of guest singers, including Emma Pollock and Melanie Whittle, showcased on the third album. The then-unknown Anna Sheard stood out on album highlight ‘The Apple Sun’, leading to the genesis of Snowgoose.
With liner notes by Pete Paphides, ‘Retrospectively Yours’ is a stunning overview of a bafflingly over-looked trio of albums. From the 60s folk-pop of ‘Angel Angel’ to the cinematic swoon of ‘Shabby Horses’, there is a depth and range to McCulloch’s deceptively subtle song-writing that reveals itself with repeated listening. The eleven selections here will steal into your heart and nestle in your soul; take the time to explore these songs and they will stay with you forever.
Buy Retrospectively Yours here.
All words by Gus Ironside, whose Louder Than War archive is here.