Thursday, 24 November, 2022 in Culture, Live Reviews, Music

Into Music Review: SAY Award 2022

Event: The Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award
Venue: Stirling Albert Halls
Date:  20 October 2022

The Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award has been on the go now for over 10 years and it made its Stirling debut in what should have been an unqualified triumph for the city. Unfortunately and despite the many highs of the night, there were a few lows and clearly lessons to be learned for Stirling Events/Stirling Council if they are to truly showcase Stirling as a “go to” venue for the likes of the Scottish Music Industry Association and others.

So, before we get to the good stuff (and there was plenty), let’s talk about the elephant in the room, the organization to get into the venue which was at best amateurish. With doors opening at 7pm and the event due to start at 8pm, we turned up at 7.10pm to find a small-sized queue which should have taken 5-10 minutes, max, to allow for ticket checks to get into the venue. How wrong was I? Over 30 minutes to get in the venue is simply not good enough and with the queue getting larger, those towards the rear were in danger of missing the start, despite turning up in plenty of time. I asked security why there was such a hold up, to be advised the organizers did not think as many people would turn up early. Eh??? Now being an avid gig-goer I know that was absolute nonsense. Further, when inside, the reason for the hold up became apparent, tickets were being collected at the door by those who had chosen the option to pick up at the venue with staff marking off names on sheets of paper. Those who had picked up their tickets prior to the event had no alternative entry point so had to stand and wait in the same queue regardless. Honestly, I’ve seen better logistical coordination at Cowie Bowling Club on a Saturday night. Why tickets weren’t posted, or to be downloadable or at the least have 2 separate queues was ridiculous, a shambles for what should be a reasonably simply process.

I don’t say the above lightly. Stirling is my local city, I’ve lived and worked there and both defend and promote it when I can so I hope the above gives the organizers some food-for-thought. On the flip side Stirling getting the SAY Award was a real coup and up the road at the Tolbooth there is a lot of creative excellence happening such as their Cafe Concerts series which saw SAY nominee Hamish Hawk (for the excellent album – Heavy Elevator) play there two days after the ceremony. Visit the Stirling Events website here for more details.

Anyway, back to the ceremony. With over 350 eligible albums up for the award initially, this was whittled down to a long-list of 20 then ultimately to a short list of 10, all of which were showcased on the night. Presenters were the BBC’s dapper Vic Galloway and the sassy Nicola Meighan. Mick Fleetwood and Sam Fox they were not, thank God! Galloway and Meighan were the absolute quintessential professionals, displaying verve, enthusiasm and unparalleled musical knowledge throughout the night which really raised the awards above the parapet. Keep a hold of them SAY – they’re great.

Turning to the music, AiiTee (nominated for her album, Better Days) kicked things off, including a fantastic cover of Dougie MacLean’s Caledonia. Fusing the old with the new, her voice slowly engulfing the room.


More live music followed with local band Constant Follower (nominated for their album Neither Is, Neither Was) taking to the stage, the group sat in a semi-circle, their songs at times quiet but filled with depth. The initial track had a lunar-like guitar sound that beggared belief. The downside, and one I have mentioned before is the seemingly increasing audience chatter while the artist(s) are playing for them. This was especially noticeable on the last track with the band almost drowned out. If people want to chat, that’s fine but go outside of the hall, you spoil the moment for those that want to hear the music.

Part of the night also focused on Tiny Changes, the SAY Award charity partner for the night which was set up in the memory of Frightened Rabbit front man Scott Hutchison, to support mental health and wellbeing for Scotland’s children and young people. Please visit their website here for more details.

Other musical interludes included excellent sets from Kathryn Joseph and The Just Joans.

There were of course other awards on the night and great to see Heaven or Las Vegas, the definitive Cocteau Twins album win the Modern Scottish Classic Award. The band’s Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde appeared by video link to accept the award and the fact Stirling (Le Clique) was also the first place the band played was an interesting snippet mentioned in the introduction by Nicola Meighan. Following the award, the Seonaid Aitken Ensemble took to the stage to reimagine Cherry-Coloured Funk, Iceblink Luck, the album title track and Fotzepolitic, a real highlight of the night.

Not only is there a look back at a Scottish classic but The Sound of Young Scotland award gives the opportunity for a look forward. Five acts were up for this with a funding package of £5,000 to support the winner to make their debut album. Having listened to all of the acts in the run up to the event, the competition was fierce with Berta Kennedy ultimately prevailing and doing well to keep her composure and run through a few choice live cuts for the audience after the presentation.

Berta Kennedy

Lastly, the big award but who would it be? Huge congratulations to Fergus McCreadie for Forest Floor which scooped the Scottish Album of the Year Award. Fergus couldn’t be there on the night having been up for the Mercury Prize the night before and the award was picked up on his behalf by Seonaid Aitken (surely though Fraser could have done a short video message to accept the award)?

It could be argued that such awards, best of lists and the like are subjective, and they clearly are but they remain good fun and the one thing I take from this is this… In looking into the nominees I found bands and artists I would not ordinarily come across and that is a good, good thing. Some have a new fan in me, some (not naming names of course) do not, but what I do appreciate is the creativity, the output, the graft, the joy, the diversity, the surprise, the beauty, the bleak, the light, the darkness, the wisdom, the abandonment evident in the whole process, and I absolutely embrace the unbridled feelings that brings. Music really is like nothing else.

A massive well done to all who entered. You’ve all contributed to what is clearly a vibrant music scene in Scotland. Here’s to next year!

 John Welsh







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