Album Review: Norman Mackay – The Inventor

Norman Mackay is living proof that someone can turn any instrument into the life and soul of the party. The accordion is traditionally considered as a supporting instrument but in Mackay’s hands it becomes something so much more. As a musician, composer and furniture maker, Mackay is a man of considerable artistic talents and a variety of outlets with which he can utilise them. His most recent foray bore the result of his latest album The Inventor.

The Inventor has a sparse white cover that gives little to nothing of what is held within away. Unless you have come across his work before, you wouldn’t have even the slightest of inklings as to what treasure tracks you might find hiding in such a sleeve. This sparse introduction is actually strikingly similar to his work itself which centres around the rich and lulling tones of the accordion, merely peppering the rest of the track with a rich heritage of sound as he utilises some of Scotland’s best traditional musicians to lend a hand. Everything from brass to percussion comes into play throughout the length of The Inventor but does so in such a subtle and unassuming nature that the main drive of the accordion is never once overlooked.

What is so striking with Mackay’s work is that not only does he draw the prime focus on the understated instrument that is the accordion but he also draws things out of the instrument that you might find surprising. The album is a heady collection of melodies that flutters between Eastern European influenced waltz numbers, classical orchestral scores and jaunty nautical numbers that wouldn’t look out of place on a pirate ship cresting the waves. Such a sunny disposition and glorious amount of imagery is summoned by such a small and humble instrument, but this mere fact is simply proof that it is the person holding it that retains that power. Mackay is a man who takes you on a wondrous journey around the globe, through dances and thunderstorms, with a rich and evocative imagery and he does it all without ever uttering a word.

This level of craftsmanship within music is a rare gift, the ability to tell a take without words. It all sits within the delicate balances that Mackay creates wherein his whimsical and jovial melodies saunter and dance around you, making your head swim with a chorus of beautifully rendered tunes that can lull you to sleep or rouse you to dance depending on his mood at the time of playing. Truly a versatile master of the accordion and a stunning composer, Mackay has brought to life an indescribable beauty with The Inventor which has to be heard to be believed.

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Review by Joe Knipe


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