I reviewed Paul Brady’s new album “Unfinished Business” a couple of weeks ago, and spent a very enjoyable hour or so being reminded of when I was young and only mildly cynical, and when the likes of Brady, and Van Morrison and Davy Spillane used to encourage me to think about folk music, and particularly Celtic folk music in new and exciting ways.
How delightful, then, to have a new album drop into my cd player today that took all of 30 seconds to transport this ageing, moderate-to-profoundly cynical reviewer back to the days when new music really was new, when I became a proper fan of a statistically significant proportion of the new music I heard, and when I could close my eyes and not only enjoy the sounds of a beautifully crafted folk album, but also enjoy being immersed in an almost tangible, textural experience created by someone with an obvious, genuine love of his craft.
Blue Rose Code, actually a solo project by acclaimed Scottish singer songwriter Ross Wilson, “The Water Of Leith” is grounded in folk, but mixes in jazz, rock and soul in ways so deft and effortless that I am immediately reminded of the aforementioned Brady, Spillane and Van Morrison. And in the best way possible – I am already a fan! (Which is a bit disconcerting. It hardly ever happens these days and it’s all a bit unfamiliar.)
And if you’re too young to know who any of those redoubtable stars are, think Ray Lamontagne after a long and relaxing holiday (his, not yours) in the Scottish Highlands, and you’ll be pretty close to the mark.
Collaborating with a host of award-winning and celebrated musicians, Wilson’s voice and story-telling remain the stars of the show here. But the arrangements, with occasional flourishes of ethereal backing vocals, or low whistles and soprano sax, constantly evoke a sense of space and time too often forgotten in the melee of modern life.
Still, arrangements aside, the songs stand for themselves, and I’m certain that any live show with Wilson delivering them alone, on piano or guitar, would be just as enjoyable and evocative.
With a couple of exceptions (what album doesn’t have a couple of exceptions?), such as the overly simplistic (to my tastes anyway – many will argue) “Love Is…”, or the somewhat unstructured “The Water”, these are songs with strong narratives and melodies, beautifully delivered.
All in all, a perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon or evening, escaping the stress and pace of daily life, mentally wandering far-off hills and farther-off times… And breathe……
Water of Leith is out on October 27th via Navigator Records