Review: Scotty Alan “Wreck and The Mess”


Scotty Alan
Wreck and the Mess
By Gerry Gomez
Contributing Writer

For those who like the Paul Westerberg, Neil Young, Waterboys vein of well-written, heart-felt songs of the human condition from joy to sorrow with the sound drawn from a punk, visceral, no-nonesense approach performed with some heavyweights in the genre, then Scotty Alan’s, Wreck and the Mess is a must hear album.

There’s a hard to pin down quality missing in a lot of Americana, Roots Rock genre music that  separates the good from the great. That is listenability, likeability, and plain old well written songs with good hooks, strong choruses and that intangible that just makes your ears perk up and listen. Scotty Alan has all of these things working for him in spades. He also had the good sense (fortune perhaps?) to work with the right producer, Bernie Larsen (Jackson Browne, El Rayo-X, Bonnie Raitt, Melissa Etheridge), for his music.

Scotty is a Paul Bunyan mountain man of sorts. Really. His story is that he holes himself up at an off-the-grid log home that he began building 20 years ago on family property. He heats the home with logs cut from the property, spent months digging out a basement with several spade shovels and has to crank up a generator to demo his songs. For some 10 years he’s used this approach in living and making music. This time round, he built himself a suitcase and leaned on friend/producer Larson to bring his songs to the next level.

A long-time performer, Alan was in a punk band called the Muldoons in the late 90’s who romped around Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It seems his songwriting aesthetic was formed in those punk days as his approach to songwriting is simple and non-fattening in a good way. He cuts out the fluff and gets to the chorus and entertains us with just what the songs need to make their point.

“It ain’t much, but I’m all you got and I’m yours,” occupies much of the lyric of the 1:24 song “Ain’t Much.” Also economic but effective, is the song “Dam.” “Said I’m building this dam from the hole in my heart. Got my hammer and nails and the boards on the cart. Gotta wheel it over, gotta get something done. Cause now soon enough high water’s gonna come.”

“Says Lately” and  “Not Ready To Be,” are other stand-outs on the album. They hearken back to a Replacements vein of songwriting that paints a portrait of that person one’s looking for but in the end, that person winds up not ready to be found. “Not Ready To Be” has a tasty twist in the lyric:  “I was looking for someone to lean on. She was there but just not ready to be.”

Wreck and the Mess is reported to be a bit of a concept album in that it covers the state of a relationship from the initial highs to the decaying lows, with the album ending on the note that Alan is looking for “Someone to Fight.”

Great writing, production and honest vocals would mean little if the musicianship wasn’t equally up to par. Well, it happens that some awesome musicians make up Alan’s support staff:  David Lindley, Ian McLagan, Kristen Mooney and others from Lucinda WIlliams’ backing band, contribute and the results are an exceptional effort worthy of wearing out the grooves on this “big label” debut.

For fans of music that reaches into the soul and music that one can imagine picking them up when downtrodden, Scotty Alan is someone to invite over to share a drink with.

Extremely lucky for Angelenos, Scotty is doing two shows this weekend: Saturday at Room 5 and Sunday night at the Cinema Bar with the players of Lucinda’s band.

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