A review of Dougie Burns’ album ‘California Cadillac’.

dougie - With a little help from your friends‘California Cadillac’ is the first solo album from Inverness’ Dougie Burns. Describing himself as a blues, rock n roll balladeer he’s put together an album of self penned tunes that range from solo acoustic numbers to a full band sound in others. There’s a raft of local and not so local musicians that have helped on this album including Davy Cowan, Wolfstone’s Andy Murray, Connor Meeks formerly of Purple Divide and Matt Sillars.

The drum machine on opening track ‘She’s no Lady’ feels slightly incongruous and not what I’d expect on a blues album but then the rest of the song confounds expectations too. Dougie’s reverbed vocals and the guitars sound more like something that The Cult would have written in their heyday, and this is no bad thing because The Cult are bloody good!

‘Confidentially Wasted’ is complemented by Mike Mackenzie from the Ness Rhythm Kings on clarinet, a song that is essentially about getting drunk on your own and feeling just a bit sorry for yourself. The clarinet lending a mournful tone to the song. In fact as I write this I’m tempted to get the 20-year-old Aberlour out as an accompaniment!

‘Dear John’ features on the compilation album ‘Jocks Juke Joint Vol 2’ which was also nominated as The Album of Year in the British Blues Awards 2013. For me this is one of the best songs of the album and again it’s one the simpler tunes that stands out with Stevie Smith (Mir, Salt, Bad Manners) providing a cracking harmonica solo.

Dougie Burns Band 6 300x199 - With a little help from your friends
Dougie Burns at The Ironworks

‘Home’ is the longest song on the album clocking in at 7.23, long enough for two guitarists, the first provided by Wolfstone’s Andy Murray and in a nice touch the second is provided by Andy’s son Joshua Mackenzie (Lionel). Joshua’s solo proving to be one of the highlights of the album bringing the song to a close and quite possibly borrowing slightly from a certain Dave Gilmour.

Title track ‘California Cadillac’ is a belter of a blues tune and one that I would love to see performed live, in fact if I had a Cadillac I suspect this tune would be getting played at full blast down a highway somewhere… or more realistically in my poor battered Beemer down the A9!

One thing that should be noted that while the sound production on this album is good, it’s not always perfect and there are times when Dougie’s vocals are too low down in the mix. ‘Blondie’ in particular suffers from this. In itself it’s a rousing blues number, but I guess it’s hard to be overly critical when you consider that this is after all a self-released record. Get past that and you’ll find that this is an album with some real gems.

The one thing that stands out about California Cadillac is that it never succumbs to self-indulgence. All too often blues records subject the listener to interminable guitar solos, followed by equally interminable harmonica solos and God forbid, the dreaded sax solo. Dougie manages to keep everything in check and in doing so has created an album full of infectious and thoughtful blues tunes.

Click to buy California Cadillacir?t=wwwinvernessg 21&l=as2&o=2&a=B00HEKZLF8 - With a little help from your friends

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I've always loved music and spent my late teens and early twenties playing guitar in various bands on Lewis and Aberdeen. Other than playing in some truly terrifying pubs in Aberdeen not much came of it and life became focused on family and having a 'proper' job. Inverness Gigs is an outlet for me to quell my inner frustrated musician and the caliber of local acts has even inspired me to take my own music more seriously again. Who knows, one day I might venture back on stage under the fierce scrutiny of an Inverness Gigs reviewer! You can contact Toby direct at Toby@Igi.gs