“Everything comes to he who waits.” So the sayings goes.  Even a new album from The Pearlfishers. Recently, Scotland’s best kept musical secret, The Pearlfishers, released their seventh album, Open Up Your Colouring Book, on Marina Records. Open Up Your Colouring Book was released seven years after their previous album, Up With The Larks. 

Open Up Your Colouring Book was a labor of love for David Scott and the rest of The Pearlfishers. There’s a reason for this. The Pearlfishers you see, aren’t a full-time band. Some of the members of The Pearlfishers have other commitments. 

David Scott for example, is a lecturer in music at the University of the West of Scotland. So he has to fit The Pearlfishers around his “real job.” That’s why Open Up Your Colouring Book has taken seven long years. Unlike full-time bands, The Pearlfishers have to record when and wherever they can. 

For fans of The Pearlfishers this has left them waiting in vein. After a few barren years passed, it was no longer a case of “when” the new Pearlfishers’ album would drop. No. It was a case of if. Some Pearlfishers fans thought they’d more chance of seeing Santa than a new Pearlfishers’ album. They were wrong. “Everything comes to he who waits.” That was the case when recently, The Pearlfishers released Open Up Your Colouring Book.

Open Up Your Colouring Book is The Pearlfishers’ seventh album. I find that hard to believe. It doesn’t seem long ago that I was holding a copy of Za Za’s Garden which was released on the Iona Gold label. That was back in 1993. I was hooked. This was the beginning of a twenty-one year love affair with The Pearlfishers’ music. Since then, each Pearlfishers’ album has been eagerly awaited. 

Having enjoyed the musical delights of Za Za’s Garden, I awaited The Pearlfishers’ sophomore album. Four years passed before The Strange Underworld of the Tall Poppies was released on Marina Records. The Strange Underworld of the Tall Poppies saw the emergence of The Pearlfishers’ trademark sound.

Two years later, The Pearlfishers released what is, without doubt, their musical Magnus Opus, The Young Picnickers. Released in 1999, comparison were drawn with The Beach Boys. David Scott was seen as East Kilbride’s answer to Brian Wilson. Nobody knew if David had his own sandpit within chez Scott. As a songwriter and singer, David came of age on The Young Picnickers. 

The Pearlfishers were at their melodic best on The Young Picnickers. No wonder. David introduces you to a cast of quirky characters and scenarios. With the song’s cinematic quality, the scenarios unfold before your eyes. Hope, humour, optimism, beauty and romance are omnipresent. For me, The Young Picnickers is a classic Scottish album. Following The Young Picnickers up wasn’t going to be easy.

As the new millennia dawned, The Pearlfishers returned with their fourth album Across The Milky Way. Released in 2001, Across The Milky Way featured a band who were maturing. Just like The Young Picnickers, Across The Milky Way was released to widespread critical acclaim. Great things were being forecast of The Pearlfishers. They were too good for we Scots to keep as our own. It was our duty to share The Pearlfishers with the world. 

Sadly, The Pearfishers remain one of music’s best kept secrets. Although they’ve a fan-base outside Scotland, David Scott et al, haven’t enjoyed the commercial success and critical acclaim their music deserves. In some ways, The Pearfishers’ story reminds me of The Blue Nile. Both are hugely talented bands who could’ve and should’ve rubbed shoulders with the giants of music. Sadly, that’s not the case. Instead, The Pearlfishers are best known by their own kith and kin. That would continue to be the case.

The Strange Underworld of the Tall Poppies was released in 2002, on Marina Records. This was quite unlike The Pearlfishers. They never before had released two albums within the space of two years. Some critics and fans wondered whether The Pearlfishers were keen to make up for lost time. Maybe they were looking to make the great leap forward?

Listening back to The Strange Underworld of the Tall Poppies, it’s impossible not to be swept away by the melodic delights of The Pearlfishers. The songs are irresistibly catchy and hook laden. There’s a reason for that. David Scott is one of the great Scottish songwriters of his generation. He’s a student of what makes a great song. Anyone who has hard David talk at length about songwriting, will realise this. 

About a year ago, David Scott did a workshop for BBC Radio Scotland. He talked about some of his favourite songs and what made them great song. It was a mini masterclass into the art of songwriting. During this workshop, he explained who the great songs were written. He played these songs and delivered them with emotion and passion. One of the highlights was a new Pearlfishers’ song The Way My Father Spoke About Vincent. Breathtaking is the only way to describe the song. Just like so many Pearlfishers songs, it had a cinematic quality. The characters unfolded before your eyes. So did the song’s ethereal beauty. However, back in 2002, David had yet to write The Way My Father Spoke About Vincent. Indeed, he still had two more albums to write and release.

The first of these was Sky Meadows. Released in 2003, on Marina Records, fans of The Pearlfishers were enjoying a veritable musical feast. Sky Meadows was the third album The Pearlfishers had recorded in three years. Surely, they must be nearing that elusive breakthrough?

That proved not to be the case. It was a familiar scenario. The Pearlfishers released Sky Meadows to critical acclaim. However, it didn’t sell in the vast quantities that it deserved. For David and the rest of The Pearlfishers, this must have been really frustrating? After all, they were releasing albums laden with musical jewels. Sadly, these jewels were being lost within the racks of record shops. As anyone whose had any involvement in the music business knows, many potential classic albums don’t find the audience they deserve. Following the disappointment of Sky Meadows, it was another four years before we heard from The Pearlfishers again.

2007 saw the release of The Pearlfishers’ sixth studio album, Up With The Larks. Oozing optimism, positivity, joy and a healthy load of hooks, The Pearlfishers were back. Up With The Larks marked the welcome return of a Scottish musical institution. Critics hailed Up With The Larks as another welcome addition to The Pearlfishers’ back-catalogue. Music lovers privy to the secrets of The Pearlfishers bathed in its delights. Everyone was happy. However, still The Pearlfishers’ music wasn’t being heard by the wider audience that it deserved. Maybe that would change with their seventh album?

Time goes slowly when you are a Pearlfishers’ fan waiting for a new album. Seven long years passed before David Scott and the rest of The Pearlfishers completed Open Up Your Colouring Book.

It’s no wonder it’s taken seven years for Open Up Your Colouring Book to be recorded. There’s sixteen songs on Open Up Your Colouring Book. David Scott wrote fourteen tracks. He cowrote Chasing All the Good Days Down with Amy Alison and I Don’t Want to Know About It with Erin Moran. These sixteen songs were recorded at a variety of studios in the West of Scotland.

Open Up Your Colouring Book was recorded over the last couple of years, at a variety of studios. This includes what’s become known as The Pearlfishers’ headquarters, East Kilbride Arts Centre. That’s become David Scott’s centre of operations throughout his career. Other sessions took place at the University Of West Of Scotland Studio and at Gorbals Sound. Even The Fruitmobile was called into service for the recording of Open Up Your Colouring Book which featured The Pearlfishers and friends.

For the recording of Open Up Your Colouring Book David played guitar, bass, keyboards, mandolin, concertina and recorder. The rhythm section includes drummer Jamie Gash, bassist Dee Bahl and guitarist Gabriel Telerman. Strings come courtesy of violinist Lawrence Dunn, Alison Lucas, Tom Prentice on viola and cellist Wendy Wetherby. Arran Fitzpatrick and Adam Welsh played trumpets. Backing vocalists included Stuart Kidd, Madaleine Pritchard and Stefanie Lawrence. This was the lineup that recorded Open Up Your Colouring Book, The Pealfishers’ latest opus.

Diamanda opens Open Up Your Colouring Book. The introduction brings back memories of The Boo Radleys’ Wake Up Boo. After that, The Pearlfishers’ trademark sound evolves. There’s an optimism and sense of wonderment in David’s vocal. Gradually, the arrangement unfolds. Instruments are like an artist’s palette. He’s accompanied by handclaps, cooing, sweeping harmonies, an acoustic guitar and jaunty keyboards. providing the heartbeat are the rhythm section. Later, a crystalline guitar is sprayed above the arrangement. Adding a finishing touch to this joyous anthem are lush strings.

To The Northland sees a real change in sound. A hypnotic rhythm section lock into a groove. Chiming guitars reverberate. David’s vocal is heartfelt, tender and thoughtful. Soon, strings sweep and swirl. Later, David’s voice becomes melancholy and rueful. This is reflected by the swathes of grand strings sweeping in the background.

Chasing All the Good Days Down has a country-tinged sound. That’s until the strings dance in. They set the scene for a pensive vocal from David. Its’ tender, thoughtful and veers between emotive, joyous and dramatic. Before long, it’s obvious that this is classic Pearlfishers. Everything works. The arrangement proves the perfect backdrop for David’s emotive vocal. Lush strings, jangling guitars and the rhythm section provide the backdrop for David, as he delivers some beautiful lyrics.

The Way My Father Talked About Vincent was the first song I heard from Open up Your Colouring Book. That was the version from the songwriting workshop, which featured David duetting with a female vocalist. Sadly, she’s absent on the album version. Instead, David drops his vocal and sings that part. It works though. As David sings the lyrics, memories come flooding back. He remembers his father telling him about Vincent Van Gogh. There’s the same wonderment in his voice. It’s as if he’s being transported back. Suddenly, he’s young and spellbound by the story his father is telling him. You become an onlooker in their conversation. Accompanying David is an understated piano lead arrangement. A melancholy violin and harmonies enter. Mostly it’s David’s vocal that takes centre-stage. It’s responsible for a poignant and beautiful song.

From the opening bars, The Last Days of September is instantly recognisable as a Pearlfishers’ song. It has their trademark sound. Partly it’s down to David’s vocal. It’s instantly recognisable. There’s also The Pearlfishers’ use of harmonies. They compliment David’s vocal. Here, his love of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys shines through. Even the meandering, understated arrangement brings back memories of previous Pearlfishers’ albums. What really makes this song are the lyrics. They’ve a poignancy and paint a picture of a town as summer become autumn. David lyrics leave you imagining the town’s faded grandeur as the seasons change.

Just an acoustic guitar accompanies David on You’ll Never Steal My Spirit. David’s vocal is heartfelt and disbelieving. His lover wants him back. There’s something she’s not telling him. Something is different. He realises it, but she doesn’t. The love they once had is gone. David doesn’t love her any more. She doesn’t realise it. There’s only one reason she wants him back, loneliness. Swathes of wistful strings sweep and a thoughtful David whistles. This results in the song sounding like something from a French movie. Later, a defiant David sings: “you can pull me down, but You’ll Never Steal My Spirit.”

A spacious, melancholy Fender Rhodes provides the backdrop to David’s tender vocal on Gone In The Winter. He sings “I fly free, I fly free, I fly free, over the buildings, out past the cornfields.” He sings of escaping the winter, but is that the case? Is it not more likely he’s escaping a relationship or responsibility? Cooing, cascading harmonies accompany David. So do deliberate drums and reverberating, crystalline, guitars. As David sings of escaping, he wants to be remembered. “You’ll feel my skin or hear my call” It’s as if he wants the best of both worlds. He wants to be remembered and loved, but also wants to escape for the winter.

Attacked by Mountain Cats has a Spanish sound. Deliberate guitars set the scene. Then briefly David whistles. It’s then replaced by the guitars as this musical Amuse Bouche shows its secrets.

Open up Your Colouring Book has a lush, wistful introduction. Strings combine with a plucked guitar. As the guitar drops out, it’s replaced by David’s heartfelt, emotive vocal. He reassures the person he’s singing to. It’s as if he believes in them and loves them. When he sings: “Open up Your Colouring Book” this is a metaphor. It’s more him saying I believe in you and believe you can do this. Later, trings sweep and dance, harmonies soar above the arrangement and a jaunty piano plays. Percussion can be heard as the arrangement unfolds. There’s a nod to The Beach Boys. Especially when David drops the tempo and his vocal signals the rebuilding of the arrangement. It becomes an orchestral opus where beauty is omnipresent during this heartfelt paean.

A Peacock and a King is another track with a cinematic quality. David accompanied by piano, percussion  and tender harmonies paints pictures with the lyrics. He takes you to a special and surreal world, where A Peacock and a King “roamed the city streets, the hills and valleys and through the country fair.” Images take shape before your eyes. It’s akin to revisiting another time and place, with David Scott and The Pearlfishers your time travel guide.

Just like other tracks on Open up Your Colouring Book, Silly Bird has a subtle arrangement. Mostly, it’s keyboards and harmonies that accompany David. Later, percussion enters, and a guitar chirps. Mostly the arrangement allows David’s vocal to take centre-stage. An envious David sings about how the bird the song about is free, then remembers that: “like you and me, pal, passing through.”

I Don’t Want to Know About It features a heartbroken David accompanied by a lone piano. Soon, harmonies sweep in. A despairing David sings: “I Don’t Want to Know About It, don’t want to know about it.” Recorders, triangles, cascading harmonies and a seeing guitar replace David’s despairing, heartbroken vocal, as he lays bare his hurt for all to see. The result is one of Open up Your Colouring Book’s highlights.

After one of Open up Your Colouring Book’s highlights, The Pearlfishers are on a roll. When Love Was a River is The Pearlfishers at their best. That’s down to David’s vocal and the arrangement. It features Byrdsian guitars, lush strings and cooing harmonies. All the time the rhythm section join harmonies in providing the backdrop David’s vocal. He sounds as if he’s lived and survived the lyrics, unlike his former beau.

Keyboards, pounding drums, dark piano chords and an acoustic guitar combine on You Can’t Escape the Way You Feel. It’s full of twists and turns. You never quite know where the track is heading. A despairing David awaits the call that never comes. It was one night only. The disappointment and sadness fills his voice as David delivers the lyrics  You Can’t Escape the Way You Feel.

Straight away, there’s a sense of melancholy in Her Heart Moves Like the Sea Moves. Again, there’s a cinematic quality to the lyrics. The characters seem very real. So does their faith. Especially the central characters, McGarvey and his mother. Against just a piano, David Scott becomes the narrator in what sounds like a very Scottish play.

Closing Open up Your Colouring Book is A Christmas Tree in a Hurricane. Just washes of Fender Rhodes accompany David’s vocal. His vocal is slow and tender. Before long, it grows in power and emotion. When his vocal drops out, a guitar chimes and meanders. This sets the scene for the return of David’s vocal, as he unleashes a vocal that’s emotive and heartfelt.

After a gap of seven long years, The Pearlfishers make a very welcome comeback. They’ve been away far too long. Open up Your Colouring Book is a reminder of what we’ve been missing. 

Hook-laden, joyous, cerebral, thoughtful, melancholy and wistful describe the music on Open up Your Colouring Book. That’s just a few words that describe Open up Your Colouring Book. So does captivating, bewitching and beautiful. 

Especially when David Scott, dawns the role of troubled troubadour. His lived-in, weary vocal sees him breath life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics. For anyone whose lived, lost and lost love, then Open up Your Colouring Book speaks to and for them. It brings to life their heartache and hurt, their sense of how life will never be quite the same again. 

Other songs have a cinematic quality. They’re akin to soundtrack to short films or plays. You can shut your eyes and imagine the lyrics unfolding before your eyes. The characters, their hurt and lives seem very reals. Sometimes, it’s as if they’re laying bare their soul. Not only do they lay bare their soul, but articulate their hopes, fears, frustrations and dreams. 

Articulating this gambit of emotions and musical vignet, is David Scott, another of Scotland’s troubled troubadours. Just like previous albums, David Scott, accompanied by the rest of The Pearlfishers. They play their part in Open up Your Colouring Book’s sound and success. 

Seven long years after the release of Up With The Larks, Scotland’s best kept musical secret, The Pearlfishers, return with their seventh album, Open Up Your Colouring Book. It was recently released on Marina Records. Open Up Your Colouring Book is a welcome return to form from The Pearlfishers, Scotland’s best kept musical secret.




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