THE scourge of the pandemic era has left a patchwork of scars on the Scottish music scene – in more ways than one.

A loss of live events has been financially damaging but also sparked bouts of isolation both for artists and for patrons. For some, the grinding halt of the industry was a catalyst for inner turmoil.

David MacGregor was five months into promoting his first solo record, when it all came crashing down. His band of many years – Kid Canaveral – had gone on what is now a permanent hiatus and he had poured his heart into the Broken Chanter debut album. What could have been a bright new chapter in his career soon become a bit of nightmarish hellscape.

MacGregor tells The Weekender: “Everyone had their own personal battles with the pandemic and the lockdowns. I unravelled slightly a couple of months in. It was a result of going from being so constantly busy to having so much of my work disappear.

“A lot of things that I’d been pushing to one side or not dealing with popped out. It was like I had a cupboard in my head that I’d been stuffing full of things I needed to deal with over 10 years of touring…it just all tumbled out in the middle of the summer.

“I lost it. But songwriting is catharsis. Actual therapy certainly helps too.”

Even without Covid, 2020 was looking like being a very challenging year for MacGregor with all that would come with launching something new. And while the lockdown took its toll, it wasn’t long before the cultured songwriter found himself able and willing to begin album number two.

He recalls: “The pandemic hit right when I was trying to get both a new name and a new record off the ground – it felt a bit like a disaster on top of a catastrophe. I’d gone from filming a BBC Quay Session to cancelling a whole tour within the space of a few weeks.

“After the initial shock wore off, I started to speak to [producer] Paul Savage in earnest, to get a second album underway as soon as possible. We’d been talking about working together since before the first LP was released and it was a joy to make from start to finish, not to mention a healthy dose of normality and a real escape from everything that was going on.”

Though written in the midst of the pandemic, the material focuses more on what was and would be again. Having the project on his plate was a godsend for MacGregor who hopes Catastrophe Hits could be a tonic for those who suffered with the isolation of the last year and a half.

“It’s not a lockdown record,” he adds. “It’s much more expansive than that.

“The first Broken Chanter album was an atmospheric beast, and a touch melancholic. This one is more musically upbeat.

“I thought that’d it’d be coming out towards the end of the pandemic and that folk would need a lift. They wouldn’t want something that was that was reflecting on what had just happened.

“It’s a progression, but it’s identifiably the same artist. I think it’s more confident and focused as a result of me feeling a bit more on my feet again.”

Indeed, no mere distraction in difficult times, Catastrophe Hits speaks to matters beyond the pandemic – highlighting ongoing issues that have either taken a back seat during the lockdown or have, indeed, come to greater prominence in that time.

There were rising tensions in the UK and US in the lead up to lockdown. In some instances, problems such as economic inequality, immoral governance and the proliferation of xenophobic discourse have become much more entrenched – with less scope for remedy.

MacGregor is not simply pointing the finger with his latest album; there is an overriding message to be taken onboard as well.

He says: “The first Broken Chanter LP was a touch introspective, and it wouldn’t be right to be so inward looking again given everything that’s going on. I was a touch in mourning for the old band before; this time around, the songs reflect on the feeling that everything seems to be getting worse.

“We’ve suffered through over a decade of unprecedented stupidity, calamity, and cruelty in the UK. Words like ‘cronyism’ and ‘chumocracy’ are being used in place of the word ‘corruption’. The ultimate Wee Guys are firing themselves into space with their enormous fortunes seeded by inherited wealth, and are expecting applause for it, whilst floods and fires ravage the globe as part of a climate crisis that is only going to get worse if it goes unchecked. Neo-fascism and the far right are on the rise, but we’re expected to 'both-sides' everything.

“The album isn’t all nihilistic hand-wringing, though. There is hope. We need to organise effectively; we need to put pressure on those in power; and we need to address immediately the irreversible funnelling of wealth upwards and the associated destruction of our public services, ecosystem, and rights.”

MacGregor pieced together an impressive cast of musicians for his core band including Audrey Tait on drums and percussion, Jill O’Sullivan on violin and vocals, Graeme Smilie on bass and piano, and Bart Owl on guitar, with guest turns from Man of The Minch, Ali Hendry, and Gillian Higgins.

As with the first Broken Chanter album, the Gaelic language is used to great effect on Ith Làn Do Bhìth and Ith Làn Do Bhìth. Though not yet proficient in the tongue, MacGregor is keen to put his studying to practical use.

“I’m not anywhere near fluent – far from it,” he says. “I’ve been writing these songs as part of my learning. I also like the idea of exposing folk to Gaelic who wouldn’t necessarily normally engage with the language – by sticking a song in the language in the middle of a pop album.

“My sister-in-law is fluent and I would send her my lyrics to check for stupidity/clunkiness. I was getting advice on my pronunciation right up until the point I was in the vocal booth, over the phone from Tiree from Anna MacDonald who was literally helping me in-between lambing. The perils of recording at that time of year.

“It’s about, maybe clumsily, trying to explore something that was lost to my grandparents, great-grandparents and so many others. Gaelic is a beautifully descriptive language in a way that English is not.

“I’ve always used Scottish English in my writing too, and I don’t disguise my accent. I don’t believe we should shy away from our language(s) and dialects, despite the fact that we’re taught formally and informally from a young age that any deviation from Standard English is incorrect, improper, or ‘lesser’. We need to bin our lingering cultural cringe around things that are overtly Scottish, and reject tartanry as a way of keeping us in our box.”

Catastrophe Hits will be unveiled on October 29 through Last Night From Glasgow. A second single in the form of Dancing Skeletons will be released on October 15.