IT IS OFTEN said that as a songwriter, Kevin McDermott is Scotland’s best-kept secret. But secrets are incompatible with the spirit of full disclosure, so if you can access a rooftop to shout it from, do join us in according Kevin his due respect.

As far as posterity is concerned, Kevin’s music career winks into being in 1982 with the formation of Popgun, a Glaswegian trio which swiftly becomes a quartet and then transitions into The Suede Crocodiles. That initial ‘pop’ prefix is of no little significance: the legendary sole 45 issued by the band, ‘Stop The Rain’, is an irresistibly cartwheeling exultation which, appropriately, banishes the clouds.

Summarily striking out on his own with a ‘corduroy jerkin and a beat-up box guitar’, Kevin embraces the itinerant lifestyle of the Greenwich Village acoustic troubadour, an era encapsulated in the 1986 solo album Suffocation Blues. A new-found lyrical acuity is filtered through an ever-present ethos of Buzzcocks vigour and immediacy. A semi-impromptu six-week tumble around the US, performing spur-of-the-moment gigs at the drop of a busker’s hat, fosters a love of the road and an unquenchable thirst for setting off towards distant horizons.

Next up, the formation of The Kevin McDermott Orchestra (KMO), with Kevin’s brother Jim whaling the spots off a massive drum kit, signifies a new level of commitment and determination. Kevin is snapped up by Island Records and, tellingly in terms of the reputation he already enjoys, signs a publishing contract with Carlin Music in the Brill Building in New York – songwriter central. 

The release of Mother Nature’s Kitchen in 1989 lends KMO perennial classic-album status and cues a chapter of incessant touring that brings the band’s visceral and cathartic live set to audiences across Europe, the US and the UK. A notoriety for simultaneously impressing and putting the frighteners on headline acts is accrued en route. KMO notch up high-profile support slots for 10,000 Maniacs and The La’s (and, later, Rod Stewart, Sting, INXS, Simple Minds, Status Quo and Jethro Tull) in the course of a rolling itinerary which also sees the band selling out the Barrowlands in their own right. Twice.

With three singles (‘Wheels Of Wonder’, ‘Where We Were Meant To Be’ and ‘Healing At The Harbour’) skirting the charts by a hairsbreadth, mainstream success feels just a spit away: but the industry has other ideas. A recession looms, and Island Records is sold. The label’s penchant for sticking with acts to develop them over the course of several albums is a casualty of the process; and with the blithe stroke of a pen, the new owners’ bean-counters consign KMO to the outbox.

Characteristically, however, Kevin turns adversity into creative rocket fuel. KMO go on to release Bedazzled (1991), The Last Supper (1994), For Those In Peril From The Sea (1997) and the compilation Fair And Whole (1998), matching some of Kevin’s most cogent compositions (‘Everything Is Over’, ‘Somebody To Believe In’, ‘Another Hurricane’, ‘Seeing Out Loud’, ‘Dealing In Silver’) with redoubtable, diamond-hard performances.

In 2008, Wise To The Fade sees Kevin consolidating his gift with mature material (‘September Songs’, ‘Edge Of The World’, ‘Voices’) that could have been written by an omniscient 1,000-year-old seer with unprecedented levels of insight and empathy.

And now there’s Sniper Davey. Brother Jim is still belting the pelt off a massive drum kit, alongside a revolving cast of contributors including long-term compatriots Robbie McIntosh and Marco Rossi. Multi-instrumentalist Nick Blythe is the invaluable foundation to the process, providing next-level musical and production input. ‘An inspiration’, Kevin says simply and sincerely. Kevin plans to release every track as a single, just like Moby Grape did in 1967. We know how this played out for them; but to paraphrase Lou Reed, ‘Those were different times.’ Hippies may have undervalued 45s, but today we know them to be an exalted and precious format. A perfect way to present a precious set of songs.