AIDAN O’ROURKE & KIT DOWNES – 365 Volume 2 (Reveal Records Reveal018CDX)

365 Volume 2Having been privileged to see Aidan O’Rourke and Kit Downes performing their 365 Volume 1 in 2018, the release of 365 Volume 2 was extremely high on my “most anticipated” list. And rightly so. This two-disc album presents a further 25 compositions inspired by (and fully the equal of) author James Robertson’s virtuoso short-story collection 365: stories.

The music contains its own energy and works perfectly as a standalone piece but, when combined with reading Robertson’s stories (presented in the CD booklet), a strange sympathetic magic occurs. O’Rourke’s music is, after all, created in response to Robertson’s tales and perhaps this is what creates additional sensory depth when the two art forms coincide: a rich, dense, absorbing world evolves with slow-burning intensity.

As in 365 Volume 1, this is a fairly minimalist piece featuring two highly skilful musicians making graceful, richly textural sound paintings – listen to ‘That Place, Mick Said, Christ What A Hole’ or ‘Off The Motorway And Onto The Short Cut, Over The Hill’, to pick just two. A masterful, controlled tightness of playing exists between Downes on piano or harmonium and O’Rourke’s fiddle, yet the overall feeling is free and loose-limbed.

Naturally, traditional music influences feature large, emphatically Scottish in the bluster of ‘That Braggart Has It Coming To Him’, ‘I Met Him Only Once’ and the rustic ‘On This Day The First Recorded Total Eclipse Of Scotland Took Place’. Almost-cheery jigs are slyly subverted in ‘There’s A Rumour Going Round, We Don’t Know What It Is, But We All Get In Line’ and ‘One Day She Decided To Open Her Own Library’, to create a fidgety tension.

Folky motifs also seem favoured to sketch in elements of the natural and supernatural, as in the darkly atmospheric ‘Now You Know About Clootie Wells, Do You?’, the brightly surreal ‘Douglas And Aileen Stood In Front Of The Blue Plaque’ or ‘They’d Start Their Calling Around Midnight’, this last twining vine-like around a jazzy piano.

Angular atonalities slant by like icy rain in ‘We Drove Down That Road Saddened By My Father’ and ‘Right William, Trolley Duty, Kev Said’. The modernist jagged repetition, (think a less-saccharine Einaudi) in ‘The Film Was Preceded By A Warning’ would make a great setting for contemporary dance.

365 Volume 2 is an intimately-recorded performance with each piece a beautiful, vividly-coloured miniature portrait, a perfectly executed distillation of emotion and style. All life is here: drama, empathy, wit and melancholy. The scale of this ambitious project remains as awe-inspiring as the consistently superlative quality of the results.

Su O’Brien

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Read about the installation at Edinburgh Book Fair here.

‘There’s A Rumour Going Round, We Don’t Know What It Is, But We All Get In Line’:

365: Stories And Music opens in Edinburgh

365 - James Robertson365 - Aidan O'Rouke


The Edinburgh International Book Festival today launched the latest chapter in the 365: Stories And Music collaboration between James Robertson and Aidan O’Rourke.  Commissioned by the Book Festival, and supported by Creative Scotland, an immersive sound installation of stories and music by the two leading Scottish artists can be enjoyed, free of charge, by the public in the Book Festival’s George Street Bookshop from today, Wednesday 7th August 2019.

James Robertson, one of Scotland’s most respected authors, wrote a short story every day for a year. Each story was to be 365 words, no more, no less. It became an enchanting, roaming collection of fairytales, memories and provocations published in 2014 as 365:Stories. That was only the beginning.  Fiddler/composer Aidan O’Rourke (of the folk supertrio Lau) wrote a tune every day in response, resulting in a major new body of 365 tunes. Aidan’s fiddle tunes are sparse and emotive; his playing is famous for its lyricism, here paired with kaleidoscopic harmonies from Mercury-nominated keyboardist Kit Downes, guitarist Sorren Maclean and harpist Esther Swift.  The album 365: Volume 1 was released in May 2018. 365: Volume 2 will be released on 9 August 2019.

The installation is a piece of art in itself, beautifully crafted from oak and steel with no digital screens in sight. It allows up to six people at a time to browse through all 365 stories and listen through headphones.  Each spoken word-recording is paired with a piece of music.

Robertson reads many himself; other storytellers include Tam Dean Burn, Gerda Stevenson, Cathy Macdonald, Matthew Zajac and Kate Molleson providing rich and varied accents from around Scotland.

James Robertson said “This project has grown in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I began writing these stories. It has become a vast, multiform patchwork of fiction and stunning melody – an expansive and emotive catalogue of public art.”

Roland Gulliver, Associate Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival said, “This new installation is an exciting embodiment of a brilliant project.  We have worked with James and Aidan since the inception of 365: Stories & Music and are delighted that we can now offer an opportunity for the public to select their own choices of these wonderful stories, and beautiful music, to listen to here at the Festival.”

The installation launches today at Edinburgh International Book Festival in Edinburgh and will be available in the Festival’s George Street Bookshop until Sunday 25 August.  James Robertson, Aidan O’Rourke and Kit Downes will be performing music and stories from 365: Stories And Music at the Book Festival on Saturday 10 August at 5.00pm.

365 - location

Full details and tickets from

The 365: Stories And Music sound installation will tour the country from September 2019 visiting Shetland Mareel, Orkney Library, Linlithgow Palace, Wigtown Book Festival, the Scottish International Storytelling Festival and many more.

‘The News Where You Are’ – James Robertson live:

New Country Rehab

Take one of Canada’s hottest country fiddle players, a guitarist that’s a cross between Tom Morello and Kevin Breit, a percussionist that plays saw blades and cookie sheets and one of the most versatile double-bass players in Canada and you get New Country Rehab. With their debut album release now available in the UK, the band are quickly making a name for themselves having been described in Canada as “a band to watch closely” by Exclaim! magazine. Since the Canadian release they have played many major Canadian music festivals and are showcasing at the Americana Music conference in Nashville, TN in Oct. 2011. They will be touring in Europe in January 2012 in support of their self-titled debut album.

Formed by John Showman, Ben Whiteley, James Robertson and Roman Tome, the band’s unique outlaw indie-country sound channels Hank Williams Sr. as much as Arcade Fire, creating exciting new music that’s winning a rabid and rapidly-growing fan base. As Tom Power, host of CBC Radio’s Deep Roots show explains, “They’re one of the few bands that the hardest of old-folkies and the hippest of hipsters can agree on. Combining virtuosity with taste, they’re poised to be the ‘next big thing’ in Canadian Music.”

The self-titled album, recorded by producer Chris Stringer (Ohbijou, Timber Timbre) highlights the group’s strong original compositions and deep musical palette. The song-writing is defined by themes of death, love and loss, written in the folk-country storytelling tradition. John Showman weaves songs together often based on real people he has encountered in his life. Bury Me is a dying man’s lament for a grave next to that of his true love. InCameo, the story of a woman who escaped Nazi Germany on skis parallels her granddaughter’s escape from love gone wrong. The Last Hand recounts a gambler’s final game as he crosses paths with “The Cowboy”, a colourful and notorious figure that Johncame to know in the Florida Keys. The band takes the listener on a boisterous journey, from the Queens-of-the-Stone-Age-meets-Doc-Watson original trackAngel of Death to the menacing State Trooper (an interpretation of the seminal Bruce Springsteen song, replete with police sirens and car crashes). New Country Rehab move with ease through Post-modern surf-rock in The Houses In This Town Are All Falling Down, dub reggae in a reinvention of Hank Williams Sr.’s Ramblin’ Man and disco-imbued instrumentals in the once old-time Appalachian tune, Train 45.

All of the band members are successful sidemen in their own right, having played with artists ranging from Amy Millan, Basia Bulat, the Creaking Tree String Quartet, Elvis Bossa Nova, The Foggy Hogtown Boys, Justin Rutledge, Ken Whiteley and Brandi Disterheft.  Lead singer and fiddle player, John Showman won the 2011 Cliff Top Fiddle competition in West Virginia and honour only once before bestowed upon a Canadian.

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