END OF NEIL-LESS E.P.

END OF NEIL-LESS E.P.

The last time we heard from Stirling-based singer-songwriter End Of Neil, he’d just released his My Games E.P. During the six tracks on My Game, End Of Neil introduced us to a diverse cast of characters. Many of them are complicated. Some of them are troubled. All of them are intriguing. In many ways, that makes it a very Scottish collection of songs. After all, we Scots are complicated, troubled and intriguing. We certainly have stories to tell and always have. It’s in our D.N.A. End Of Neil certainly has many more stories to tell. Whilst working on his debut album, End Of Neil has recorded another E.P. Less.

Featuring six new songs, Stirling’s troubled troubadour Neil Stewart is back, with more stories to tell. An old fashioned storyteller, whose reminiscent of seventies singer-songwriter, the six songs on the Less E.P. are from the pen of a perceptive storyteller. End Of Neil comes across as an observer and people watcher. That’s what the best songwriters are. They tell other people’s stories, bringing their stories to life. His insightful songs are like short stories, telling the stories of people he’s come across. Their lives, loves, despair, treachery and heartbreak unfolds. Singing with emotion and passion, End Of Neil’s Less E.P. marks the next chapter of End Of Neil’s career. Before I tell you about Less, I’ll tell you about End Of Neil’s career so far.

Earlier this year, when I wrote about End Of Neil’s My Games E.P, I did what I always do when I come across a new artist, I asked him to tell me a bit about himself. I wanted to know not just about End Of Neil’s music, but Neil Stewart, and his life. What I was trying to do, was build a picture, so that I can tell his story. Often, the information I’m given, varies. It various in quality, quantity and substance. End Of Neil’s was different. It was a refreshing first.

Some artists I’ve come across, their CVs were like small books. Reading their CVs, you’d have thought that they were the saviour of the music industry. You’re lead to believe that you’re truly, in the company of greatness. Unable to resist temptation anymore, I just had to listen to their music. It’s only then that I realized that rather than being in the company of greatness, you’re in the company of shameless self-promoters. In all honesty, I realized this from the start. After all, this wasn’t their debut album. Instead, they’d released six albums. Still, they were trying to make a commercial breakthrough. Sadly, they lacked something that every successful artist needs…talent. That’s something End Of Neil certainly doesn’t lack.

End Of Neil is a hugely talented singer-songwriter. He’s also one of the most modest men in music. I discovered that when I first came across him. When I first heard End Of Neil’s music, I got in touch with Neil Stewart, the man behind End Of Neil, and asked him to tell me about his career so far. Unlike other artists, Neil provided a short, ego-free CV. Straight away, I liked Neil Stewart. Here, was a really talented, singer-songwriter, who despite his obvious talent, remained humble and modest. He helps other bands, is supportive of his local music scene and is “part a strong community of songwriters.” Neil Stewart, I realized is an anomaly in modern music, an ego-free musician. 

Based in Stirling, Scotland, End Of Neil is the alter-ego of Neil Stewart. End Of Neil was founded in 2008, and since then, has been honing their unique sound. Best described as a combination of acoustic and folk, it’s won over audiences throughout Scotland, and more recently, much further afield.

Most of End Of Neil’s music is written by Neil Stewart. He’s just the latest in a new generation of Scottish singer-songwriters. Neil’s been influenced by John Martin, Nick Drake, Bob Dylan, Jeff Buckley and Neil Young. It’s not just folk music that influences End Of Neil. Not at all. Neil says anyone “with a guitar and sense of feeling” influences him. Interestingly, this includes Nirvana. These influences are reflected in End Of Neil’s music, which has been honed through constantly touring.

After founding End Of Neil, Neil played mostly Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh. His idea was, to refine his music through playing live. This is the old-fashioned way. Through playing live, an artist refines his sound and songs. Having played mostly in Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh, End Of Neil started playing further afield and opening for some big names.

No longer was End Of Neil playing much further afield. Audiences at concerts and festivals were won over by End Of Neil. So too, were The Vaselines, Ken Stringfellow and Rachel Sermanni, who End Of Neil supported. This summer, End Of Neil will be supporting Simon Townsend, the brother of Who guitarist, Pete Townsend. Whilst constantly touring, End Of Neil has released three E.P.s.

It was back in September 2012, that End Of Neil’s recording career began. Escape At The Zoo and 62 were the debut tracks from an undoubtably talented artist. Best described as joyous and celebrating being young and free, Escape At The Zoo features intelligent lyrics, thought provoking lyrics, about whether human instinct can be repressed by work and social pressures and norms. 62 is an atmospheric song, one that paints pictures in your mind, while Neil’s voice is needy and emotive. Just a month after End Of Neil’s debut single, came his first E.P.

September was released by End Of Neil in October 2012. This was End Of Neil’s debut E.P. It certainly didn’t disappoint. Both Escape At The Zoo and 62 featured on September. The other three tracks were of a similar quality. End Of Neil brought Forget The Afternoon, Save My Soul and Knights In Armour to life. Neil’s lyrics are a cut above what we’ve come to expect from modern singer-songwriters. Just like the seventies singer-songwriters who’ve influenced End Of Neil, Neil delivers his songs with passion and emotion. He’s like a master storyteller, his songs painting pictures, asking question, probing and provoking your emotions. For a debut E.P. September was the perfect way to begin End Of Neil’s recording career. Just seven months later, came the followup, My Games.

Released in April 2013, My Games was End Of Neil’s sophomore E.P. It featured six new tracks from End Of Neil. It built on September, which had been the starting point for his recording career. The songs are even better, tighter and slicker. Now six months later, Less is End Of Neil’s third E.P.

It seems that End Of Neil is a prolific songwriter. After all, since April, he’s written and recorded six new songs. These six new songs can be found on Less is End Of Neil’s third E.P. Again, we’re introduced to a diverse cast of characters. Many of them are complicated. Some of them are troubled. All of the characters on Less, which I’ll tell you about, are intriguing.

Return To The Sea opens End Of Neil’s third E.P. Less. Straight away, you realize that Neil Stewart is carrying on the tradition of the singer-songwriter. Neil follows in the footsteps of Jackson Brown, James Taylor, John Martyn and Nick Drake. Like them, he writes cerebral, intelligent and evocative lyrics. So much so, that you can picture the scenes unfolding, as he delivers lyrics with emotion. With just his trusty guitar and harmonies for company, there’s a sense of relief as Neil sings: “now we can Return To The Sea.” It’s as if this is cathartic and cleansing, a welcome relief from the travails of life and relationships.

Hitchhikers is a song where folk, blues and country unite. Neil plays his guitar and blows thoughtful bursts of bluesy harmonica. That sets the scene for his melancholy vocal. His descriptive lyrics have a cinematic quality. So vivid are the pictures he paints, it’s as if you’re there, watching the relationship unravel. It’s all but over. You can sense that. Longingly, Neil wants to roll back time. Sadly that’s not possible, and all he’s left with are memories, sadness and thoughts of what might have been. A beautiful, melancholy breakup song.

Every-time is another relationship song. Here, Neil lays bare his soul, remembering a previous relationship. Triggering that relationship, was a jumper he bought. That opens the floodgates. Memories come flooding back. Tinged with emotion and with just his trusty guitar for company, his vocal is deeper, as if welling up with emotion and regrets. That was the women for him. He left her go. She helped him make sense of the world. Together, things made sense. Now older, wiser and with the benefit of hindsight, only now does Neil realize what he lost. Cerebral, thoughtful and emotive, this a powerful song of love and love lost.

Away, Away is an anthemic, love song. It’s best described as an outpouring of emotion, where Neil wears his heart on his sleeve. Here, he finally tells the women he loved from afar, what he feels about her. His guitar is ever-present, while subtle bursts of harmonica, understated drums and percussion join tight, soaring harmonies. The result is a joyous, hooky, paean where End Of Neil at his soul-baring best, declares his love from the woman he’s admired from afar.

Affair is song about a fleeting relationship. Sung with a sense of regret, sadness and even bitterness, it’s a kitchen sink drama. In three minutes, Neil paints a bleak pictures of two ships passing in the night. Chiming, crystalline guitars accompany Neil’s vocal. There’s a sense of frustration, bitterness and guilt in his vocal. It’s as if this Affair rankles and Neil’s consumed by guilt and frustration. 

You’re My Sweetheart closes the Less E.P. It’s the perfect track to close the E.P. Here, Neil’s accompanied by pounding drums, driving guitars and percussion, he unleashes a rockier side to his music. Sounding not unlike Bono, a hook-laden anthemic track unfolds.  There’s even what sounds like a mandolin that replaces Neil’s vocal before the track heads to a glorious crescendo, with You’re My Sweetheart proving that this is just the start, not the End Of Neil, who certainly has a big future ahead of him.

Although Less is End Of Neil’s third E.P, you wouldn’t know that. Long-gone are the rough edges. They’ve been smoothed away by five years touring, which has been time well spent. As a result, End Of Neil is a hugely talented singer-songwriter, whose following in the tradition of seventies singer-songwriters. He’s a troubled troubadour with stories to tell. These stories are compelling and enthralling. You’re introduced to a diverse cast of characters. Many of them are complicated. Some of them are troubled. All of them are intriguing, interesting and compelling. These characters have been introduced on the three E.P.s. he’s released since 2012. 

Unlike other artists, End Of Neil hasn’t released a debut album. He’ll only do that when he’s ready. That’s no bad thing. All too often, bands are in a hurry to release their debut album. They release it before they’re ready. This can cost them in the long run. After all, an inferior debut album is like a noose round a band’s neck. It’s the elephant in the room. Realising this, End Of Neil waited until he’d honed his sound and songs before releasing his debut E.P. Four years after their first gig, End Of Neil released September. It was well received. Critics realized what End Of Neil’s ever-growing fan-base knew, that End Of Neil has a big future ahead of them. Then when My Games was released, it surpassed September. Now Less surpasses the critically acclaimed My Games.

Less features six songs where folk, acoustic, Americana, country and indie rock combine. Rather than being instant and disposable, it’s intelligent, cerebral, evocative, expressive, poetic and thoughtful. End Of Neil sings of hurt and heartbreak, love and loss, life and the meaning of it. Poignancy gives way to pathos, while there’s a sense of melancholia and wistfulness on several tracks. Indeed, several tracks are like a coming of age for End Of Neil. There’s a realization that no longer he’s immortal. That’s something that comes with age, experience and maturity. Other songs, they’re akin to a realisation of loss and opportunities spurned. Neil’s vocal is at the heart of these songs, while the arrangements are understated and subtle. Despite this, the songs are intricate and multilayered. Subtleties, surprises and nuances await discovery on Less, End Of Neil’s third E.P. 

Crucial to the success of Less, is Neil’s lived-in, world-weary, soulful vocal. Less features music that’s moody and pensive, but sometimes, hopeful. The music is also introspective, poignant and wistful music. That’s what I’d expect from Scotland’s latest troubled troubadour, End Of Neil. Maudlin but beautiful, heartbreaking but hopeful and always heartfelt, that describes the music on Less, End Of Neil’s third and best E.P. 

Let’s hope it’s not long until End Of Neil releases his debut album. He’s more than ready. End Of Neil has many more stories to tell. Indeed, End Of Neil is currently recording his debut album. While we await the next chapter of End Of Neil’s career to unfold, we can enjoy Less, six more songs from the pen of Stirling’s worldweary, troubled and sometime hopeful, troubadour End Of Neil. Standout Tracks: Return To The Sea, Hitchhikers, Away, Away and You’re My Sweetheart.

END OF NEIL-LESS E.P.

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3 Comments

  1. Hi Derek, really enjoyed this review of Neil’s new EP. He is some guy! Really enjoy seeing him perform live, besides the great songs he has the gift of the gab. I agree, it’s about time he brought out a full album!

    Andrew Huggan
    Wee County folk singer/songwriter
    http://www.andrewhuggan.com

    • Hi Andrew,

      Glad you enjoyed my review of Less. I’ve not seen Neil live, but I’m a big fan of his music. It sounds as if he’s well worth seeing live. I’m looking forward to hearing his first album. Hopefully, it’ll be early 2014.

      I had a listen to your album Travels and really enjoyed it. Travels, The Selkies’ Song and In The Glen, I really enjoyed. In The Reek Of The Smouldering Peat is a rousing way to end your Travels. As for your take on The Galway Shawl, that was a new twist on a familiar song. Keep up the good work. When your next album or E.P. is out, let me know and I’ll review it. I always like to fly the flag for Scottish artists and bands, as there’s some great music around.

      Best Wishes,
      Derek.

      • Wow thanks for that Derek! Glad you enjoyed my songs. I am tinkering around with a few ideas at the moment with a hope to release an EP next year. Also have a christmas song in the works…(!)

        Will keep you updated. If you get the chance to see Neil live…do it! He’s a thoroughly entertaining guy 🙂

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