CD REVIEW – Boo Hewardine – Understudy

His latest album finds me, an unashamed fan of this acclaimed songwriter Boo Hewerdine, enjoying his reflective yet buoyant mood. His songwriting has always been honest, and in this album it has a fatalistic side yet there’s a joyful narrative running throughout the lyrics. We get twelve new songs about these times written at home in Glasgow and recorded in East Anglia with long term producer Chris Pepper. I can’t believe he’s been around for forty years now! You may have read my previous reviews and how he is a keen promoter of songwriting, and he himself has collaborated with the likes of KD Lang, Kris Drever, Chris Difford (Squeeze), Kathryn Williams, Eddi Reader and Lady Nade.

Boo says himself of this album. ‘We’ve all been going through the strangest time. This album was written in my Glasgow flat. I was unable to visit my dad in his care home. But we would talk every day. I turned 60 (I’m 25 in real life). I lost dad. I fell in love with my home life. I rediscovered the joy of writing all the time. I made new remote friends. This album is reflection of this strange time. It is a record.’

I’ll say what I have said before – he certainly has an ear for melody, for structure, for concept, for creating a mood and tapping the associated emotion. Whether full band and accompanying strings (“Men without a War”) or accompanying woodwind (“Someone Else’s Blues”) or just basic and simple guitar or piano (“Magnets”, “Why I bring you Flowers”), or comfortingly and genuinely retro (“A Dream within a Dream”, “The Day I fell in love with the World”) this fella touches the heart and tugs at the heartstrings.

No song outstays its welcome, but its delicious sounds and delicate emotions permeate long afterwards. Most songs under three minutes, each one is perfect in its own way. Subtle use of pedal, simple use of rhythm, understated yet naggingly earworm melodies and hooks, real and personal words, perfect use of just the right instrumentation in each song, Boo Hewardine is – still – an astonishingly talented songwriter, arranger and performer.

I’ve also said this before, and will sort of say it again in retrospective celebration of his 60th – he shouldn’t have just been award -nominated, but award winning. He makes songwriting look deceptively simple. And he’s been at it for decades and still comes up with such quality. A previous press release told me: “Boo Hewerdine is one of the greatest songwriter performers in the business and a unique talent.”

I agree. He’s no understudy, he’s the real deal.


  1. Magnets 02:19
  2. Useful 03:30
  3. Men Without A War 03:17
  4. Someone Else’s Blues 03:36
  5. Why I Bring You Flowers 02:52
  6. The Thing You Love 02:58
  7. A Dream Within A Dream 02:39
  8. Ancestors 02:55
  9. The Day I Fell In Love With The World 03:11
  10. Spring 03:06
  11. Euston Station 03:14
  12. Afternoons 03:23


All instruments and singing – Boo Hewerdine and Chris Pepper


Gustaf Ljunggren – Lapsteel 1/2/12 Piano 6 Flute 8
Electric Mando 7
Angus Lyon – Piano 11
Pete Harvey – Cello 5
Ben Hewerdine – Keys 11
Strings – 3/6/10 Arranged Seonaid Aitken
Seonaid Aitken – Violin 1
Katrina Lee – Violin 2
Patsy Reid – Viola
Alice Allen – Cello
The Key Notes – 7
Arranged by Simon Morgan
Simon Morgan
Stephen Fennelly
Eunan Mc Donald
Jeremy Morgan
Barry Finn



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