CD: Edwyn Collins, Home Again

It's been a slow road to recovery for the ex-Orange Juice star, but the album he's finally made is astonishing, says Craig McLean

Life was looking good for Edwyn Collins in 2004. He'd been busy at his West Heath HQ - the studio that 'A Girl Like You' built - producing the Cribs and Sons and Daughters. He and Domino Records were putting together The Glasgow School, a compilation of songs by his early Eighties combo Orange Juice. Meanwhile, in the corner of north-west London that the Scotsman had called home for around two decades, he had been writing and recording songs for his sixth solo album.

Then, at about 7.30pm on Sunday 20 February 2005, Edwyn Collins collapsed with a brain haemorrhage. Five days later, he suffered another haemorrhage and slid into a coma. Life was not looking so good.

But with the help of his longstanding missus and manager Grace Maxwell he fought back from the near-dead. He beat MRSA. He re-routed his mental skills, away from the damaged parts of his brain, learning how to walk, speak, read and write again. And finally, after six months in hospital and 20-odd months of daily rehabilitation, he felt ready to finish off the album he'd begun back in 2004.

Home Again is the astonishing result, a richly textured, folk-influenced album in which Collins's lyrical genius shines as hard as ever. Intriguingly, the album sounds like he had a sense, a premonition, that his life was approaching a crossroads. From the title inwards, Home Again is a collection of songs in which the man, 47 now, surveys his past and his future.

'I took a walk to clear my head, like a snake with a skin to shed,' he sings on 'Liberteenage Rag', a tumbling acoustic toe-tapper in which that caramel-thick voice considers taking the low road back to Scotland. Similar yearnings for his ancestral past - Edwyn's mum's family hail from Helmsdale on the remote north-east coast - surface (obviously) on the gorgeous and stately title track, and on 'Leviathan', a stirring, rumbling gothic-folk epic. In the latter Edwyn describes standing 'on the edge of my world' at the Whaligoe Steps, an ancient stone staircase cut into the cliffs at Helmsdale.

But this is no maudlin testament of a midlife crisis. Home Again is a vital record from a vital artist, drawing on his 30 years of music-making to create a wonderfully evocative, personal, honest and raw set of songs - the power and pull of which are, right now, helping him along the road to recovery. The indefatigable Edwyn Collins is even planning some live shows this autumn. A hero, any way you slice it.

Download: 'Home Again'; 'Liberteenage Rag'; 'Then I Cried'; 'Leviathan'


Craig McLean

The GuardianTramp

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