Grateful, released at the tail end of 2015 was the calling card for the third album from Blue Rose Code, ... And Lo! The Bird Is On The Wing. The song, a glorious collaboration between Ross Wilson and The McCrary Sisters ushered in his most successful year so far. A full house album launch at Celtic Connections, the celebratory Men from Leith show, shared with Dean Owens and Dick Gaughan, and two sold out concerts at The Edinburgh Fringe amongst the highlights so far.
Ever on the wing himself Wilson and the revolving group of musicians who populate the band has toured the length and breadth of these islands from remote outposts to city centres, huts to concerts halls and in this instance, a converted Cotswolds nunnery. Featuring a four piece line up of Blue Rose Code (Wilson accompanied by Wild Lyle Watt on guitar, John Lowrie, piano and Nico Bruce, double bass) the recording captures perfectly the freewheeling blend of folk and jazz that Wilson has crafted over the course of his albums and features three previously unreleased songs.
The songs gathered here capture the restless spirit of Wilson and Blue Rose Code. Personal notes of trials and tribulations sit alongside a broader celebration of his Scots heritage, a statue carved out of a whole country's marble, as he sings on his adaptation of Hugh MacDiarmid's poem, Scotland. The naked intimacy of Pokesdown Waltz rubs shoulders with the romantic sweep of From Wester Ross to Nova Scotia, individual loss and the Celtic Diaspora entwined.
From these depths Wilson rises like a phoenix, the gentle celebration of life on Grateful and the pastoral litany of a west coast boat trip on Sandaig find him more at peace within himself and, like a prodigal son, returning to his beloved country. His hymns to the twin cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow capture the essence of both, Edina, a reclamation of his roots in Leith and Glasgow Rain a late night wander in neon-slicked streets. His recollection of the warrens of Whitechapel and the hustle and bustle of This Is Not A Folk Song, recalling earlier struggles, are imbued with a new found hope.
Whether introspective or roaming Wilson is superbly supported by the band who can spin a delicate web around the slenderest of tunes as ably as they can navigate the leaps and bounds of the joyful In The Morning.
There's a proud Caledonian spirit in Wilson's voice even as it twists and turns with the ease of a jazz vocalist like Eddie Jefferson. Comparisons to John Martyn and to Van Morrison's Celtic soul music populate his reviews but ultimately he offers a universal vision of humanity. A world populated by visionaries like William Blake and Norman McCaig, Marvin Gaye and Jackie Leven along with the packed terraces of Easter Road and his own, very grateful, audiences.
released January 27, 2017
Nico Bruce - Bass
Graham Coe - Cello (Graham only plays on 18 & 19)
John Lowrie - Piano
Wild Lyle Watt - Guitar
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