“15 Hands” by Les Johnson & Me is a collection of heartbreaking, funny, rambunctious, wry, poetic and sincere songs dealing with all manner of subjects. From tragedy, triumph, and redemption, to Bill Oddie, domestic appliances and the girl next door. All somehow delivered with Les’s masterful understated simplicity. Plain yet nuanced, tough and fragile. Striking that fine balance between marvelling at life’s wonder and revelling in it’s absurdity.
Providing the backbone to these fabulous songs are one of Scotland’s finest roots outfits The Shiverin’ Sheiks, alongside a host of other great musicians and singers from all corners of Glasgow’s thriving music scene. The record stylistically takes in elements of Sun rockabilly, bluegrass, Scottish traditional, church hymns, Nashville pop, doo-wop, ragtime, American folk and calypso all played with the Sheiks’ customary passion and verve, dancing freely across the Atlantic and beyond yet always serving their king, the song.
At the centre of it all is Johnson’s extraordinary baritone. Rich and commanding, yet tender and reassuring. A voice that can find pathos and drama in washing machine instructions, the epic in the everyday. Somewhere between gentleman Jim Reeves, Johnny Cash and Tenessee Ernie Ford with a distinctly Glaswegian twang.
With this fiery mix of Scots-American sounds Johnson’s stories and songs live and breathe. Whether they live and breathe in Memphis or Auchtermuchty is for you to decide.