Gavin Sutherland

Gavin Sutherland

Musician and Songwriter

Diamonds and Gold album coverDiamonds and Gold.

"Just about the best chill-out album I've ever heard. A quiet masterpiece."
Classic American Magazine, June 2000

After a large boogie session down at Dog Kennel Wood Terry was putting his new piano in the back of the famous Red Sierra. As I walked back to the house to get my guitar I heard a loud bang and the sound of shattering glass. He had slammed the back door down onto the corner of the piano, smashing the window into a million pieces. "It must have been stickin' out a bit" he said. I agreed. I felt privileged, it's not every day you get to witness an act of such blatant stupidity. There was no point in talking about it so we got in the car and headed for home. A couple of miles down the road Terry suggested that I should "stick some tunes on a CD". I agreed. A few miles further on and, with a little help from my friends, here they are and here it is.

Recorded for Corazong Records at Protston, Aberdeenshire, 1998 '99.
Songs written, performed and produced by Gavin Sutherland.
All titles ©Gavin Sutherland 1999.
Mastered by Professor James Hunter.

Thanks and Deep Joy to
Adrian Baillie, harmonica on The Prisoner's Song and Over Abilene.
Terry Butters, piano on Dancing in the Kitchen and Sky So Blue.
John Coletta, mandolin on After The Storm.
Norman Robertson, horns on Lily's Bible and Sky So Blue.
Adrian P. Robbins, tech-aid.
Lorna Sutherland, cover painting.

I was introduced to the peculiar world of record promotion at the age of sixteen, playing in a band called A New Generation. We all hated the name but we were stuck with it thanks to some promoter guy in London who, for no known reason, was telling everybody that's what we were called. Anyway, when we got a message from our manager to be outside Hampstead tube station at 5 a.m. we, being green and keen, didn't even ask why, we just went. A publicity bloke met us there and took us up to the Heath in a cab. There was a lorry parked in the middle of nowhere and a bunch of people spraying the grass with silver car paint. When the lorry drove away we couldn't believe our eyes. Oh no! A big wooden home-made spaceship. Oh no! Our instructions were to sit inside this thing while the word spread around London that an alien craft had landed on Hampstead Heath. We sat there for ages on a plastic sheet with baby frogs climbing all over us. Meanwhile, in a phone box not too far away, our media guru was getting the promotion snowball rolling. The problem was, instead of phoning the papers (like he was sp'osed to do), he called out the Old Bill! Unbelievable. He'd killed it stone dead. The police arrived in no time at all, banging all over the spaceship and telling us that if we didn't "piss off" and take "all the crap" with us, we would "get done". They were seriously stressed about their time being wasted by "idiots" and made us carry the thing all the way back to the car park. About two miles! We were totally knackered and had achieved absolutely nothing.
I thought about re-enacting the events of that morning in celebration of my thirty years in show business, but, in the end, I decided to go with a CD.

A New Generation

The crew of WSS "Enterprise" 1967

John Wright, Gavin Sutherland, Chris Kemp and Iain Sutherland


What the papers say. . . . .

"The Scotsman's stripped matters to the bare bones to record a set of stirring,
sing-em-like-you-lived-em gems. Good'un." Guitar Magazine March 2000

"Gavin Sutherland (of Sutherland Brothers, natch) has fashioned the achingly beautiful Diamonds and Gold from bits and bobs of acoustic blues and folk. Highly recommended."
Joe Cushley, Mojo October 2000

"I have no doubts that this will be regarded as one of the finest folk works of the 90s."
Peter Smith, Sounds Country February 2000

"It's all good stuff. . . Diamonds and Gold should bring endless hours of listening pleasure."
Alan Cackett, Country Music International March 2000

"It's a tuneful affair. . . perfect for any artist looking for strong material from an outside writer."
Fred Dellar, Q May 2000

"En sångröst långt inifrån och bakifrån: rik på erfarenheter, ärrad men inte bitter utan liksom förlikad med livet. Lillebror Gavin Sutherland gör fortfarande lika fina sånger. Nog är det märkvärdigt, minst sagt. Bengt Ericsson, Göteborgs-Posten 13 mars 2000

Anyway, on with the show. . . . .

Go The Distance
Trying to get there, that’s where the fun is, that’s what it's all about; in fact, I think I would go as far as to say that that's where it's at. The never ending journey. Talking about never ending journeys, I remember hitch-hiking up to the Highlands with my brother to see Paul McCartney. We were young lads with a mission and we needed to talk to somebody about groups and gigs and songs and all that stuff. The Mac, for obvious reasons, was top of our list. It took about thirty hours but we found his farm and, yes, we even got to talk to the man himself. He told us of how he and John (God bless him) wrote off to all the agents around the north of England for gigs. They used black envelopes and wrote the addresses with silver nail varnish. They didn't get one reply! I thought about the wooden spaceship. The light shone from the master's eyes as he told us "It's all out there, if you want it bad enough, just go and get it." So we did.
When I first moved into West Kensington's bed-sit wonderland, wide-eyed and gig-less, I spent many long nights trying to work out what I was looking for. All I came up with was a long list of things I didn’t want. But I'd made a start. I was there with the lads, having a go.

Golden dreams, fall and shatter, Still I tell myself, it doesn't matter,
The weight lies heavy, on low resistance, I may not win the fight but I'll go the distance.

Hardluck Town
I owe a lot to Stoke-on-Trent. I spent my formative years in and around the City, watching the Potters at the Victoria Ground and trying to dance at the Top Rank. It was there, on a Saturday night in 1965, under hot dance floor lights and generating all the soul-power a boy could muster, that I foolishly attempted an unrehearsed James Brown heel-spin. The Tops were just coming to the end of a verse of Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever and I wanted to under-pin the glorious rise into the chorus with a hot move. It started to go wrong immediately. Levi shouted "Because" and a split second later I hit the deck with a sickening thud. Yeah, Jimmy Mack was on his back. Slightly dazed, I looked up to see the girl I'd fancied for ages staring down at me in fits of laughter.
It's true, love can break your heart.

I was hoping for a sweet surprise, some compromise, a change of heart.
But you never seem to listen to me and it was plain to see, right from the start.
What's this I hear from everybody, the rumour that's going down.
Meanwhile, the rain comes tumbling down on Hardluck Town.

Dancing In The Kitchen
Take your partners. . . There's always time for a quick boogie in the kitchen. Jocky told me he danced to this tune in his kitchen, a glass of wine in one hand and his destiny in the other.

Dancing in the kitchen, late at night, Dancing in the kitchen, in the candlelight,
Dancing in the kitchen, just me and you, Doing the dance that we want to do.

After The Storm
It was about 2 o'clock on a January morning when a wild north wind blew the storm into Gamrie Bay. I'd been working with David in his little studio, down on the shores of the old Seatown. We stood in amazement as lightning flashed great silver lines across the sky, thunder roared above us and the churning sea threw rocks hard against the sea wall. Awesome!
David was totally dedicated to the country music thing. When he asked me what he should do about getting his songs known I thought of the wooden spaceship but then I remembered the master's words. "It's all out there", I told him, "if you want it bad enough, just go and get it." So he did. The Ancient Wheel had turned another circle, another spark from the Sacred Fire.
David packed his bags and moved to Knoxville after the storm. I think he's somewhere in Florida now.

There was something in the air that night, Something kind of rare that night,
I think I must have seen the light, After the storm.

The Road Song
I met Stanley a few months ago. He's a traveller, from a long line of travelling folk. He told me about his childhood days, when his family "traivilt" the roads of the Highlands and North East. Like all those who had gone before him, he learned about life from the songs and stories of his people and the "ever-present spirits of his ancestors". Stanley is one of the few remaining Keepers of the Lore of Ancient Caledonia. He's a story teller, a singer of songs and a worthy piper. He visited East Tennessee State University a while back, meeting up with story tellers and singers from other nomadic cultures. As he walked into the meeting hall an old Inuit woman called him over. She knew nothing of Stanley but instantly recognised the spirit of a travelling man. "Come and sit here," she said. "You're one of us."

It's a rich man's road and it's a poor man's road,
It's a wise man's road and it's a fool's road.

Diamonds and Gold
I don’t want diamonds, I don’t need gold,
I have no dreams of glory, And wealth untold.
I’ll raise a glass to sweet success,
I wish you all-good fortune, And happiness.

Lily's Bible
Lily's Bible came into my hands while I was browsing through some old books in a Trent Vale junk shop. It had a "25p" sticker on it. I picked it up and thumbed through the pages. A fancy red and gold label inside the cover told me it had been given to Lily Bradshaw for "Dedicated service to the Salvation Army".
My thoughts drifted back to Peterhead, the town where I was born and spent my early days. I remembered hearing the Salvation Army band playing carols on the corner of Jamaica Street. I would have been about five years old, crunching hard bits of snow with my new Christmas wellies. The big tree in Broad Street looked wonderful and the lights in the shop windows were just magic. The harmonies and lines the band played will never leave me. Cornets, E flat horns and rubber soles on snow is the sound of Christmas.
I gave the bloke his 25p and gave Lily's Bible to Kelly a couple of weeks later.

Hope's all gone and you're fighting for survival?
Take a look at Lily's Bible.

It's Hard Sometimes
Now I see it all, I watch it slip away,
Still you're talking to me, I don't know what you say.
Well it's the same old words, from a different heart,
Now I must forget, and make another start,
But it's hard sometimes.

The Prisoner's Song
A writer I know ran a workshop at the prison not far from where I live. He asked me if I would go along with him one day to talk to the group about songs and song writing. Going through the big gates and all the security stuff was very strange but once we got to the rooms where they met it all felt pretty much the same as it did on the outside. Talking to the prisoners was a real eye-opener. They were long-termers who had been found guilty of the most abhorrent crimes, but for the time I was with them they were just a bunch of guys writing poems and lyrics, each with a truly extraordinary tale to tell. The stuff they read to me was dark, very dark, and endlessly soul-searching. After exactly two hours a bell rang and it was time for us to leave them to it. I found it hard to come to terms with the fact that I could just walk out of the place and go into town for a cup of tea and a quick look around the shops. The people I had spent the morning in conversation with, of course, couldn't do that. I know that's pretty obvious but it's different when the whole thing's right in your face. It made me think long and hard about a whole load of things, especially my own freedom, something I had always taken completely for granted.

The old man sings of times gone by, The young man's song's still asking why,
The prisoner sings a song of liberty.

Over Abiline
It was a hot Texas night as the band pulled into town. The sky was jet black and the stars shone like diamonds. We played pool and drank cold (crap) beer in a bar, then took a stroll under the big yellow moon. All of a sudden we found ourselves surrounded by police - pistols, shotguns and spotlights aimed at us from every direction. They'd heard gun shots on the other side of town - the situation was serious. "You boys bin doon a lill shootin'?" drawled out the cop with the megaphone, a routine enquiry in that neck of the woods. Nick, our manager, raised his arms in the air and spoke out on behalf of "the act". "Look here," he said with public school confidence, "You've made a dreadful mistake. You see we're BRITISH, we just don't do that sort of thing!"
The cops laughed out loud as they put their guns down.

When the stars shine like diamonds over Abilene, On a fine night, doing all right,
Talking 'bout the way things might have been, When the stars shine like diamonds,
Over Abilene.

Sky So Blue
I went off to Andorra a couple of years ago on a bit of a working holiday. The guy who let us use his apartment had a great collection of old jazz stuff on CD - Hot Club de France, Sidney Bechet, allez! - so I spent most of the time just listening. He was obviously a gadgets freak and had everything linked to zappers - TV, hi-fi, lights, doors - you name it. The zappers lay around a big chair in the middle of the room with zapper adjustable foot rest and all-over vibrator/massage options. Lying there, in "full body" massage mode, with some vintage swing in the headphones was a total blast. It brought back a lot of fine memories. My dad ran a dance band called The Melody Makers in the forties and early fifties and used to send off for all sorts of records. He introduced me to Django, Stephane, Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Earl Bostic and, of course, my all time hero, Gene Krupa. Thanks man! Dad was playing at the Palace Hotel the night I was born, working with a drummer called Gavin, bye the way.
I didn't write Sky So Blue, it just came out.

Underneath a sky so blue, Where I first set eyes on you,
Too good to be true, Underneath a sky so blue.

It's A Mess I'm In
I didn't realise how many times I had fallen over in public until a bloke from Liverpool called me the other day. He's working on a book about Liverpool Stadium and was looking for some quotables. The strange thing was, though I'd only been there once, I did have something for him. On the night I played there I fell off the side of the stage. I remember giving a farewell peace sign to the audience and stepping straight into a black hole. Coming out of the stage lights into total darkness, I had missed the steps by about three feet. Only the front row saw that one, so it wasn't too bad. Then there was the big one at the Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, home of The Kansas City Chiefs football team. I was with the Suths and Quiver, opening for Elton John. It was the first time the giant stadium had been used for a rock show and we were the first band to play there. Someone had heard we were "Scotch" so they put a whole load of Johnny Walker (Black Label) in our dressing room. Obliged to drink it - a matter of diplomacy - I had an over the top swig at a bottle or two. By the time we got on stage the combination of the whisky and the heat was starting to get to me. Half way through the first tune I took a couple of steps backwards (a standard rock move) but unluckily got my foot caught on the cable between the Hammond and the Leslie. Bang! I was down. High above the stadium stood a huge screen, designed to show close-ups of ball game highlights and disputed plays but at that moment the cameras were fixed on me. Oh no! I looked up and there I was, about fifty feet long, floundering around the deck. The bastards were showing a slow-motion replay! When we finished the tune there was raucous laughter all around the stadium. It's quite something when eighty thousand people laugh at you. Character building stuff. So I picked myself up, dusted myself down and went into clinical depression.
My greatest falling-over moment came back in the days of the Sutherland Brothers Band when I was publicly electrocuted in Birmingham City Hall. It was there, with a little help from a dodgy plug board, that I treated the audience to a high-voltage backward flip with twist and pike, ending with a spectacular crash landing in the middle of Neil's drums. Bash, clatter, smack, thud. Follow that! I was taken in an ambulance to the accident unit where they treated me for shock, burns on my hands and "voltage exit burns" on my feet. I'd never heard of voltage exit burns before. Education is a wonderful thing. A band called Amazing Blondel were topping the bill, but I think it's safe to say that it was our night. We sold a lot of records in Birmingham that week. It worked better than the spaceship.

Bad old blues in the back of my head,
A hole in my pocket and a rock in my bed.
And it's a mess I'm in . . . .