Album Review: Blue Rose Code – …And Lo! The Bird Is On The Wing
Posted by Bobby Motherwell
To describe the latest album …And Lo! The Bird Is On The Wing by Blue Rose Code as a slow burner, risks the insinuation that it requires many listens to fully appreciate, it doesn’t. Its warmth and emotional splendour is immediate, its engagement consistent and all it asks of the listener is that you come back again and again to uncover another layer of detail which was missed previously, as your focus was on one other element of the art within. This is a magnificent collection of songs.
Where North Ten and The Ballads of Peckham Rye – the two previous works by Ross Wilson a.k.a. Blue Rose Code – laid the foundations which established Blue Rose Code’s credentials on the music scene in Scotland, …And Lo! The Bird Is On The Wing bridges the foundation footprints of those two great albums with a feel and direction which mixes traditional folk underpinned with a jazz nuance, allowing the entire album to breathe smoothly and texturise the lyrics perfectly.
We are introduced to the album with Grateful (Abridged), an acknowledgment from the writer, we assume, of his appreciation for the simple ability to be allowed to create what follows. To share his gift with others, and theirs with him. For the full version, I urge you to go visit the EP; as a prelude to the album, this fits perfectly.
The sliding bass note which opens Brave Cedars & Pied Wagtails, immediately signals the jazz influence which will form a common theme throughout. Developing into a more traditional Blue Rose Code sound, Wilson’s familiar picturesque lyrical storytelling is underlined with immaculate backing vocals from Utah born Wrenne.
My Heart, The Sun, with its wide open landscape and percussive rhythm carrying the trumpet refrain of Colin Steel , is a story of regret, of hope and ultimately a rebirth.
Rebecca borrows heavily on those early tracks from North Ten and is instantly recognisable as a Blue Rose Code song. Folksy rhythms and a country feel emanating from the pedal steel guitar from M G Boulter conspire in a familiar proclamation of unrequited love, right down to that last bass note!
And so to the painfully beautiful Pokesdown Waltz. As an artist unafraid to lay bare his deepest emotions, Wilson’s lyrics can at times make us feel that we are imposing on something so personal, so raw, that we may at first want to step back, to look away. But it is the fragility and honesty of the words accompanied by a stark piano, which engages you totally. This is a masterpiece of a song. Use the final lyric however you wish, but I guarantee when you hear “…but I do wish I’d kissed you goodbye”, you will require all you can summon up to hold yourself together.
In Glasgow Rain, we find ourselves in a Sunday morning Kelvingrove landscape. Hazy jazz overtones lay a background for the narrative, Ewan McGregor adding his timbre and sobriety to the growing awakening ramblings of Wilson’s tortured memories. In The Morning Parts 1 & 2 immediately lifts the mood and tempo in yet another reflective discourse. A syncopated journey, mixing bluegrass licks and a wonderfully punctuated backing vocal, the rhythmic mix is quite exhilarating, culminating in a mesmerizing brass and keys outro.
“If you’re lying awake tonight why don’t you just call me?” asks the contemporary ballad which is Love. Conventional in its construct, it has nonetheless, an integrity born of the emotion in the lyric. And in Favourite Boy, the penultimate track on the album, we have a swing rhythm mixed with a jazz nuanced framework. Although not the strongest track on the album, it nonetheless illustrates the range of vocals and diversity in style which epitomises this entire album.
Closing the album is In The Morning Part 3, a reprise and a retrospective. Returning again– after a short brass lament – to Wilson’s trademark fingerpicking guitar style and piano accompaniment, an emotionally charged reflection on self-authentication, and the affirmation of hope that “my best days, my best days they still lie before me….” declares. A song which returns us, to where Edina left us on The Ballads of Peckham Rye.
Ross Wilson is our modern day troubadour, he is a songwriter of immense talent. Recently, he has indicated a preference for piano over his trusted guitar based song writing instrument of choice. It is clear from this latest album, that no matter the medium he chooses, his craft remains masterful. This album, though sonically displaced slightly from the last two will resonate from the first listen, and will breathe with you on each return
Blue Rose Code – …And Lo! The Bird Is On The Wing is released on 4th March and the album will be available at the sold out gig at The Mitchell Library in Glasgow on 29th January.