Where You’re Meant To Be review by Dan Bullock, June 2016.
I’ve always liked to delve into the discovery of many music genres and deep in the late 90’s, I stumbled upon Arab Strap [the band] and their unique, story-telling narratives. I’d never heard anything quite like it and with Aidan Moffat’s deep Scottish tones alongsideMalcolm Middleton’s reflective mix of nomadic and original music I was offered a seat on the metaphorical sail-boat that set me off to places that were beyond my youthful understanding.
Where You’re Meant To Be is director Paul Fegan’s first feature doc that follows Moffat as he travels around rural Scotland to perform re-interpretations of old folk songs, which leads to a final gig at the legendary Barrowlands. Although the original plan of the tour was to socialise in with local communities and celebrate the stories, in retrospect it became something entirely different after they met 79-year old Sheila Stewart, the last in the line of a family of famed folk singers, the Stewarts of Blair, who dated back to the 12th century with gypsy heritage. It’s initially clear that she isn’t a fan of his renewed versions and thought Moffat was disrespecting the history, and doesn’t hold back from her views on such things. Stewart wanted to keep the legacy of those songs the same and although you can understand where she’s coming from, the questions began to arise when Moffat meets more people she once knew: Was she always so precious about their specific history or did time change her?
What struck me, and positively reminded me, is how connected we all are to music in our lives and particularly that of the memories and contexts of a moment. When Fegan and Moffat explore the rural outposts of Scotland, they’re not sure what to expect and although it doesn’t start off too successfully, they undoubtedly find their audience. What’s even more distinct is that it seems to reconnect people who haven’t spoken for a while, which is highlighted at their Drumnadrochit Village Hill (by Loch Ness) gig. That evening is the first to really savour, plus found me a new favourite song with the lyric ‘I’m not really into this…’ which entertainingly describes an imagined small-town orgy.
There are weaving layers between the past and present throughout which, in turn, includes a very applicable point about change. Aidan comments about always doing things a little differently and how it’s not important to him to be the popular one, his want to bring the songs forward to ‘now’ and the modern world he knows is a valid desire. But the past and looking back is full of sentiment and memory and so for many the change can be a scary thing but, in truth, the best thing to do is to go just ahead and change it away. Progress will eventually do it anyway but that doesn’t mean everything before is forgotten. ‘The songs are in the soil’ and that’s okay as well.
Where You’re Meant To Be is an authentic, funny and genuine celebration of folk music that delves into the soul and, just as importantly, shows how it tells stories in whichever way you want those to be told. So, in the spirit of Aidan’s new found journey, and with a rehabilitated, forward-looking perspective… “Let’s drink and be merry, all from one glass.”
Where You’re Meant To Be is released in UK cinemas on Friday 17th June.
Find screenings by heading here: WTMTB Screenings