Unflinching. Poignant. Brutally honest. All qualities that Stonehaven musician Fair Mothers’, aka Kevin Allan, work has in abundance. But never have they combined to such devastating effect on ‘Monochrome’, the title track from his forthcoming album and the second single to be released from it.
Written after a particularly fierce argument with his wife, it concerns “the possibility of splitting up, the ruin of our life and losing my family,” says Allan. “We let cold winds into our home / They say days spent in separate lives”, Allan sings, his voice almost breaking. “They disappear.”
Yet the tale is not without hope, nor a deeper lesson about the ties that bind us together. Long-term relationships – much like life itself – require real effort and commitment. Sacrifice too. ‘Monochrome’ is, says Allan, the most honest track on the album, and also his personal favourite. The stark nature of the music – quietly strummed acoustic guitar, plaintive piano lines, and the haunting, sombre cello of Pete Harvey – matches the subject matter perfectly, but it swells to something approaching warmth and optimism.
In part, that’s down to Glasgow-based US artist Faith Eliott, who duets with Allan on the song’s closing refrain and adds some sweet, heartfelt “Sha la la la’s”, an idea taken from ‘Baby It’s You’, a Burt Bacharach song by The Shirelles. It was a detail added by producer and Song, By Toad label boss Matthew Young, and one that gives ‘Monochrome’ “the most beautiful ending”.
“I remember driving to the studio, over the new Queensferry Bridge, listening to the first rough mix of ‘Monochrome’,” recalls Allan. “It was the first time I’d heard Faith’s parts, and it sounded so wonderful.” Breathtakingly gorgeous, it’s no wonder Allan is so proud; ‘Monochrome’ is the emotional heart of a rewarding, wistful collection of songs, the stand out moment of his masterpiece. It’s a song that swells like a bruise and gives pause for thought – we’ve all had to face such searching questions; we should all take succour in Allan’s response.