Opening a show for an iconic act, must be up there with the least forgiving jobs in music. Many’s the time I’ve seen Iron Maiden, AC/DC, or an artist of that ilk (pick from a long list) and let’s be totally honest about this, most of the time the good people in the audience either don’t care or are polite, a sort of, “yeah sound mate, now get off and get some classics on”.

A couple of Fridays ago, I was in the crowd to see Rod Stewart. We’d got there to see the support act, because there’s the rare occasion you catch a gem, a band that you make a note of, want tell people about (and you know, it helps if you own a music website…..)

Which brings us to “Midnight Glasgow Rodeo”.

Johnny Mac And The Faithful had been that band, the one that you didn’t know from Adam when you turned up, but the one that by the time you leave that you’re checking when you can watch them again.

So you go on Spotify on the way home and find that their debut record has been out a month or so, you listen to it the next day. You think its magnificent. So you read up about this “Johnny Mac”. He can’t have come out of nowhere with a record this good, right? You find out about his back story. Then you listen to the album again. Or at least you do all these things if you love music. And I imagine, if he were not actually “Johnny Mac” then John MacLaughlin might do these things too, because his love of his craft comes shining through in these 15 songs.

His background as a songwriter and a producer led Mac to have a friendship with Rod Stewart, and he appears on two songs. The opener, “Me Oh My” and a cover of the folk standard “Pay Me My Money Down”. It’s instructive that Springsteen also covered the latter on his “Seegar Sessions” album, because the vibe is the same. The same sense of fun, the same brilliant musicianship and the same energy.

If those characteristics are all the way through the record, then Mac has lost none of his ability to write a hook that, well, hooks you. “Joey Ramone” – a nod to his punk past – is a beauty, dealing with the struggle to “make it”, its soul backing vocals absolutely elevate it.

The violin drenched “Seven Sirens Of The Sea” makes good on the Celtic Folk that their website proclaims, but with its own twist. This is not some James Yorkston melancholia, no. Rather this bounces.

Many of these are around three and a half minutes, and many of them sound like they are influenced by the classic US songwriters. Tom Petty, the aforementioned The Boss, early Steve Earle. It’s all over “Little Fire” (the words even namecheck John Mellencamp). You never have to look too far to find something of a ceilidh, mind you. “Took A Train”, like so many unashamed in its pop ambition, or the slightly more expansive “Will You Wait For Me?”, with its mournful Accordion all have that tinge.

The title track is superb rock n roll, though – the Clash even get a mention – and “Galway Girl” is so good that it is essentially impossible to get wrong. Plus, as I’d cheerfully give my life savings to just about any woman with an Irish accent, I ask you what’s a fella to do, indeed…..

A lengthy record, as if Mac was trying to get everything off his chest, has time for many changes of tempo, “Sleeping Dogs Lie” is loaded with regret, the mid paced “Junkyard Fairytale” is made for Ken Bruce on Radio 2, while if hoedown’s aren’t already being conducted to “Ship Of Fools”, then something is very wrong with this country, to be truthful.

Another they’d played the other week, “You Make My Monday Mornings Feel Like Saturday Night” is made to be played live, and “The Last Shanty” would in other hands be a full on folk thing (you can hear the Young’uns doing this, you really could) here, its like a pop song for the open seas.

The last one, though “Farewell” is beautiful. Acoustic, but slow building, it is surely the hymn of a troubadour, and when he sings “I am gonna be a star someday, no matter what they say” you can hear the young lad growing up in the north of Glasgow with his talent and his dreams.

“Midnight Glasgow Rodeo” is the sound of both being realised. It is both one of the “Americana” (for want of a better term) albums of the year, but also, the very reason you should always go and watch the support band. Not that Johnny Mac And The Faithful will be that for long, if this is anything to go by.

Rating 9/10

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