Back in 2005 I stumbled across a lovely song called “Not One Bit Ashamed”. The song, full of pomp and heartbreak, led me to a very industrious musician from Fife. Kenny Anderson, otherwise known as King Creosote, must be one of the hardest working men in folk, racking up over 40 or so albums since he quietly appeared in 1998.
After leaving his band in the late nineties, Anderson started to discretely release his own music through his self-started label Fences and became the spearhead of a floating conglomerate of scottish folk-inspired artists called The Fence Collective. In a London-centric industry he chose to “remain stuck to his stretch of the Fife coastline with the obstinacy of a gnarled barnacle”. Its appeal is obvious: cobbled wynds and harbourside cottages doused with watery sunlight and a North Sea breeze. You can see how its poetic sense of place informs his songs, which are quenched with homespun stories, heartbreak and a watcher’s eye for detail. He has gradually over time garnered an ever growing cult following, and although his later albums have been released through larger record labels such as Domino Records, he still has never risen beyond any status other than cult, though a Mercury Music Prize nomination for his latest album Diamond Mine (a collaboration with Musique concrète specialist, Jon Hopkins) might elevate him to notable.
Anderson’s magic for me is the creation of achingly beautiful songs that feel tender and intimate in their nature. When paired with his insular lyrics full of wit and wisdom, and his scotish lilt suspended in the treacly timbre of his vocals (often backed by longtime friend and fan, KT Tunstall), they conjure up deeply affecting and reflective songs that accrue real emotional weight.
Having just listened to Diamond Mine again, it truly sparkles. Seven years in the making, it is a labour of love that reaches into his back catalogue to “create a soundtrack to a romanticised version of life in a Scottish coastal village”. It is expertly shaded by Hopkins’ subtle electronic flourishes and sound samples recorded on location in Anstruther. Only a brief 37 minutes long in it’s entirety, it somehow feels like you’ve just listen to the whole of a life.
Here is a little selection of some of my favs from his back catalogue.