David Latto "Three Thousand Miles From Nashville"
Presumably there is a quality which separates the clichéd from the archetypal, but identifying this elusive quality is a task at which artists and critics alike frequently find beyond them. Suffice it to say, however, that the songs on David Latto's début EP fall firmly within the latter category. By all rights it shouldn't work.
The characteristically American topographical references which pepper the lyrics ought to seem contrived and artificial in the mouth of songwriter from Fife. Equally, the melodic structures utilised here are so familiar that you'd think there was little left to be squeezed out them. Yet, somehow, Latto manages to pull it all off with conviction and integrity.
The title track is a tribute to the Shetland fisherman Thomas Fraser, whose remarkable cache of Jimmie Rodgers inspired recordings only came to the attention of a wider audience years after death. On this song, Latto evinces a similar ability to tap into the melodic and lyrical traditions of a culture three thousand miles from his home and imbue it with vitality. Perhaps there is very little originality here but the sheer commitment of the performance is sufficient to elevate it beyond the realms of mere pastiche.
Latto's voice is particularly compelling, warm and resonant, with just a touch of his native accent evident to add a wistful touch whilst the sparse arrangements, primarily just voice and guitar with a few harmonies and lead lines overdubbed, really allow the songs to shine. Of the four tracks here, three are originals, whilst one is a cover of Fred Eaglesmith's 'Alcohol & Pills', sufficiently different from Todd Snider's ragged rock n' roll take to be worthwhile. The second track 'Wooden Heart' is perhaps a little anonymous, but the combination of the title track and '15' bookending the EP are ample evidence to suggest that Latto has sufficient talent as a singer-songwriter to warrant a full album at least.