END OF NEIL-GAS STATION COFFEE.

END OF NEIL-GAS STATION COFFEE.

In an age when artists take years to record an album, it’s refreshing to come across an artist as prolific as End Of Neil. During 2013, End Of Neil has released a trio of E.Ps. The first of this trio was Less, released back in April. Then six months later, My Games was released in October. My Games was a coming of age for End Of Neil. It was his best release, with songs that were cinematic, evocative and emotive. My Games was another glimpse into the world of End Of Neil. During the six songs, End Of Neil, the troubled troubadour, introduces us to a compelling cast of characters. Their lives unfold during the six songs. Like mini kitchen sink dramas full of betrayal, heartache, love lost and love found, My Games left me wanting to hear more from End Of Neil. Much more. So, you can imagine how pleased I was to hear that End Of Neil had released another E.P. Gas Station Coffee. 

Gas Station Coffee was released on on 1st December 2013. It’s available via Bandcamp, and features B-sides, demos and what End Of Neil refers to as “special tracks.” It’s another insight to the world of End Of Neil and will keep fans occupied until his next E.P. of new material. After that, End Of Neil will begin work on his debut album, which will be released during 2014. Somehow, End Of Neil manages to find time to fit a whole host of live dates. It’s no exaggeration to say, that End Of Neil it seems is the hardest working musician in Scottish music and has been since he founded End Of Neil in 2008. He’s packed a lot into five years. You’ll realize that when I tell you about his 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.

Unlike many new musicians I come across, End Of Neil is modest, unassuming and ego free musicians. That’s really refreshing. It seems, he prefers to let his music do the talking.  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 realised 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 four 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 was End Of Neil’s third E.P.

Less was released in October 2013 and featured another six new songs.  Again, we were introduced to a diverse cast of characters. Many of them are complicated. Some of them are troubled. All of the characters are intriguing. Just like on My Game, Less saw End Of Neil introduce us to a diverse cast of characters. Many of them are complicated. Some of them are troubled, some heartbroken and some frustrated or angry. 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 is storyteller, he’s also a poet and songwriter. His lyrics paint pictures and his characters come to life. That’s been the case on each of his E.P.s and is the case on the wonderfully named Gas Station Coffee. It features six songs which were written and produced by End Of Neil. So I’ll tell you taste Gas Station Coffee, End Of Neil’s latest E.P, and tell you about its flavours and aroma.

Opening Gas Station Coffee is Dry Land. It’s a demo where End Of Neil’s talent and passion shines through. A guitar driven track it’s perfect to open the E.P. Having set the scene with waves of his crystalline guitar, his vocal drifts in. There’s a sense of relief and joy as he sings of seeing “Dry Land.” You wonder who or what he’s looking forward to see? Is it a lover, his family or has the journey been fraught with danger? He sings call and response, harmonies answering his call and adding to the singalong nature of this track. Joyous, with plenty of slick hooks, End Of Neil does what he does so well, painting evocative pictures with his lyrics.

Gimp is a slower track, with a thoughtful, melancholy sound. The lyrics remind me of Loudon Wainwright. They tell the story of two people who’ve met on the internet, who’ve embarked upon a masochistic relationship. There’s a sense of guilt and sadness in the lyrics. It’s as if he knows or feels he’s doing something wrong. He’s angry and disappointed with himself. Deep down, he knows this is no basis for a relationship. That becomes apparent in Neil’s vocal. Tinged with irony and humor, there’s a very Scottish sense of guilt that shines through in the lyrics. 

Heavy World grabs your attention straight away. This is what I’d describe as essential late-night listening. Especially, for any night owls or insomniacs. End Of Neil is speaking for them. With the guitar, bass and handclaps accompanying Neil’s vocal, he delivers vocals that are powerful and impassioned. Harmonies accompany him, as Neil, sings of how it’s a Heavy World during the night. Problems grow, things suddenly no longer make sense. Midway through the track, Neil’s vocal almost becomes a rap. He thinks back, remembering things he wish he’d done and people he’d been. Regrets it seems, End Of Neil has a few. He’s also capable of writing and delivering a slick, hook-laden, stomping track.

Straight away, Years In The Wilderness has a country influence. Just a guitar accompanies heartfelt Neil’s vocal during this paean. Full of regret, but truly heartfelt, Neil’s delivery of the lyrics are sincere and full of hope. He regrets his “Years In The Wilderness” and not being in touch. A couple of postcards, he knows wasn’t enough. Only now, does he realize what he’s risked losing. With punchy harmonies for company, Neil lays bare his soul. Delivering a needy, heartfelt and hopeful paean, this is one of the highlights of Gas Station Coffee.

With a melancholy harmonica and drums combining, they set the scene for Neil’s vocal on Villains. The harmonica and later, Neil’s vocal results in a real Neil Young influence. Apologetic describes his vocal, as he sings: “sorry I can’t save you.” As the drums and percussion provide a backdrop for his vocal, confusion, frustration, regret and sadness fill his vocal. Soon, his vocal is an outpouring and hurt. Harmonies accompany his vocal, and coo above the crystalline guitar. It’s one of the best guitar solos on Gas Station Coffee. As the arrangement builds to a dramatic close, Neil’s vocal veers between a vamp and scat. A cathartic unburdening, harmonies accompany every step of the way, while a radio plays in the distance. Together, they play their part in a track that epitomizes all that’s good about End Of Neil’s music.

Closing Gas Station Coffee is Deception. After Neil counts the band in, guitars drive the arrangement along, before his vocal enters. Soon, you’re hooked. Neil paints pictures with his lyrics. So evocative are they, that you can picture the scene unfolding before your eyes. Then with sadness and frustration filling his voice, he questions and probes, asking: “why is everyone playing these games?” That game is “Deception.” Now Neil’s a victim of this dangerous and deadly game. Full of bitterness, heartache and regret, it’s a poignant tale of love gone wrong from a hugely talented singer-songwriter.

For fans of End Of Neil, Christmas has come early in the shape of Gas Station Coffee. A delicious, aromatic blend of Americana, country, folk and rock, one cup isn’t enough. No. Far from it. It’s a truly irresistible drink, best tasted often. Indeed, from Dry Land right through to Deception, Gas Station Coffee oozes quality. Mind you, that’s what we’ve come to expect from End Of Neil. 

That End Of Neil can consistently release quality music is the result of five years hard work. End Of Neil has dedicated himself to his craft. He’s now a hugely talented singer-songwriter. Long-gone are the rough edges. They’ve been smoothed away by five years touring. That has been time well spent. Inspired by and following in the tradition of seventies singer-songwriters, End Of Neil is troubled troubadour with stories to tell. Proof of that is his the triumvirate of My Games, Less and Gass Station Coffee.

These three E.P.s feature songs that 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 during 2013. This has been akin to End Of Neil’s musical apprenticeship. Now he’s more than ready to record his debut album. 

Unlike other artists, End Of Neil hasn’t released a debut album. It’s as if he’s doing things on his terms. That’s the way to do things. Far too often, do bands sign a recording contract and record an album early in their career. Sometimes, they never recover from that. That’s not the case with End Of Neil. No way. Gas Station Coffee is a tantalising taste of what are, End Of Neil’s hidden secrets. B-Sides, demos and his “special songs” feature on Gas Station Coffee. Incredibly, he hasn’t released them until now. These songs show End Of Neil developing, evolving and maturing as an artist. Along with My Games and Less, Gas Station Coffee shows that End Of Neil is ready to make the next step. That next step is his releasing his debut album. Why?

Well, Gas Station Coffee, with its fusion of folk, acoustic, Americana, country and rock features music that’s cerebral, intelligent, evocative, expressive, poetic and thoughtful. End Of Neil sings of hurt and heartbreak, love and loss, life and the meaning of it. Poignancy sits side-by-side with pathos. There’s a sense of melancholia, wistfulness and vulnerability on several tracks. Other songs feature irony, humour and guilt. Crucial to the success of Less, is Neil’s lived-in, world-weary, soulful vocal. Sometimes, Neil’s vocal is a cathartic unburdening. This is hugely powerful and emotive. It’s as if we’re seeing a glimpse of End Of Neil’s soul, as he introduces us to a cast of new characters on Gas Station Coffee, which represents the close of another chapter in End Of Neil’s career.

The next chapter of  End Of Neil’s career begins with the release of his highly anticipated debut album. By then, word will have spread even further about the multitalented End Of Neil. Until then, you can enjoy a some of End Of Neil’s delicious and irresistible Gas Station Coffee. 

END OF NEIL-GAS STATION COFFEE.

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