Songstories #11: Roadblock

My Roadblock album doesn’t get mentioned much when people talk about my music. Maybe because I don’t tend to play many of the songs live. Or maybe because it’s pretty gloomy.

The title track is one of the darkest things I’ve done. The inspirations were the blues and the call and response worksongs of the chain gangs in the Deep South. Mixed in are some reflections on my own ageing and death. So there you go!

The image that started it off was the roadblock. It seems to me one of the most sinister and intimidating icons of the late 20th and early 21st centuries – the makeshift roadblock manned by twitchy, heavily armed teenagers, maybe out of their heads on drugs or ideology. How do you feel when you approach one of these? You can’t turn back, you can’t drive through it. Is it the end of the road? In places all over the world, and more and more, it might be. When will it be Scotland?

That was the starting point of the song, curiously enough, on a beautiful sunny morning in my friend Adrian’s basement flat in Hackney. I was in London for a few gigs with the Innocents, one of the happiest musical weekends of my life. Quite why this song came up I’ll never know.

Musically it’s so simple, just one chord that changes from minor to major and back. It was recorded at The Sound Station in Livingston with Calais Brown and Lynsey Hutchinson, whose harmonies Calais framed in a lovely echoey bassy environment.

So, an unhappy and funereal song, written and recorded in the happiest circumstances. Roadblock.

(Image from

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