BLUE ROSE CODE – Bright Circumstance (Ronachan Songs)

Bright CircumstanceBlue Rode Code (the band led by Scottish songwriter Ross Wilson) released the new album Bright Circumstance on June 7th. If Wilson/the band are new to you, their self-description is Caledonian Soul. At their best, the band draw admiring references to Van Morrison.

There are tracks on Bright Circumstance which do exactly this – ‘Thirteen Years’, say, or ‘Peace In Your Heart’- gems to play to anyone to suggest how Blue Rose Code can hit heights. ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ is pulled from the same seam – a six-minute track which builds and holds the attention.

Similarly, ‘Sadie’ is a different kind of gem – a story of a single mum, a rolling stone, who sold her life to hell and heroin and who’s never going to be alright. It’s a high-class track, a folk song tinged with country which is perfectly arranged and brings tears to the heart as I listen.

Elsewhere are tracks which I suspect come over really well played live and create a vibrant set (an hour of slow Caledonian Soul needs intermingling in a live set) but whenever I’ve played them haven’t worked for me with the same power as I’ve listened to the CD. To give an example, I can hear why ‘Jericho’ is the choice for the single off the album – it’s upbeat and deliberately references Weller’s tumbling walls in lyric and arrangement. I can imagine it opening or encoring a show and cheering along to it, but, like a couple of other tracks, it doesn’t hold me.

The final two tracks, ‘MacDonald’s Lament’ and ‘Now The Big Man Has Gone’ take us more to Wilson’s Scottish folk influence, simpler arrangements, his vocal capturing tenderness on the latter track. The album came with no background information, as a result (though there is an obvious candidate for the Big Man) I’m unclear exactly what/who was the inspiration. After the end of the music, though, there’s an answerphone recording and I’m guessing the two tracks are a tribute. It’s a good one.

In summary, Bright Circumstance feels to me a little patchy; there are touches of Wilson at his best interspersed with some tracks that I suspect are much better live than they come over on an album which feels more like a collection of tracks.

But what do I know … it’s just entered the Official Folk Album Charts at No. 7 and the launch gig has sold out. Give it a listen and decide for yourself.

Mike Wistow


‘Sadie’ – live in the studio: