What does it sound like?:
There is little that carries the emotional heft of a man sitting at a piano, striking up a minor chord and longing for home. Add tasteful female harmonies, a plucked bass and a gentle sweep of strings and it won’t be long before I’ll be wiping a tear from my eye. That’s how Ross Wilson, aka Blue Rose Code, captures my attention on track one, Over The Fields. Once he has it, he doesn’t let go. To secure his grip, track two, Bluebell, ups the tempo as the drummer takes to his stool and a jazz sax flutters between the lines of a lovely melody regretting a lost love. Before I know it the best part of an hour has passed in barely no time at all and I’ve been treated to a masterful blend of Folk, Country, Soul, Calendonian Gospel and Jazz. This is no genre hopping exercise arrogantly showing off musical skill and diversity. It’s a unified vision of a sound originating from one man’s heart and exposing one man’s soul.
All these twelve songs are love songs. Ross is an old-fashioned romantic who sees beauty in relationships and in place (mainly around Edinburgh), who believes in the indomitable power of a simple melody sung from the heart. He has the air of a lonely troubadour but he has gathered around him likeminded people, exemplary musicians on fiddle, on trumpet, on pipes, on drums and on vocals. They are largely multi-award winning: BBC Folk Award Winner, Ross Ainslie, 2017’s Scottish Jazz Awards’ instrumentalist of the year Konrad Wiszniewski, leading violinist Seonaid Aitken and three of Scotland’s finest jazz musicians; John Lowrie, Colin Steele and James Lindsay. The two tracks featuring Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes are amongst the most striking, rooting us in the breathtaking landscape of Scotland, Beth Nielson Chapman brings a touch of Nashville to the opener and Julie Fowlis makes a couple of telling contributions. All the participants do so with a perfect sense of weight, performing with dexterity and flair.
The centrepiece is a near ten minute instrumental, called The Water, just piano, bass and Colin Steele on trumpet, wordlessly capturing the relentless ebb and flow of the river Leith. It leads, perfectly logically, into To The Shore, in which Ross surrenders himself to the fates that sweep him helplessly to an uncertain destiny. Finally, Child, sees him sitting at his piano again, reminiscing and passing on lessons learnt, with the warmth of a new morning.
The Water Of Leith is a sophisticated, deeply satisfying album that deserves a wide audience.
What does it all *mean*?
Ross Wilson has emerged from some dark days and is now back in Scotland working with largely homegrown musicians and thoroughly enjoying the scenery. (He doesn’t actually play the piano himself.)
Goes well with…
Holding A Loved One Close
Might suit people who like…
Music from the heart.