The always mercurial Ross Wilson brought his latest incarnation of Blue Rose Code to Glasgow for a sold out show which was both a pleasure and a delight to be present at. One thing you can be guaranteed at a Blue Rose Code show is that familiar songs will be prodded, poked and bent into unfamiliar patterns. Not in a challenging or offhand manner (as can be the case with an artist like Dylan) but rather that Wilson’s songs are his offspring and we are privileged to see them grow and develop, all the while retaining their personality. A case in point tonight was the original gospel element of ‘Grateful’ transformed into a spongy reggae lilt, lovers rock almost with Wilson proclaiming, “I and I are grateful” towards the end.
Tonight they are a six-piece band with Greg Lawson on fiddle a new addition for this reviewer. Lawson’s input was apparent from the start as they launched into a spirited delivery of a brand new song, ‘Don’t Want To Take A Chance’, followed by a rugged ‘To The Water’, both songs given a raggle taggled swagger with Wilson adding The Waterboys to his reservoir of Celtic heroes to draw from. Talking of Celtic heroes, ‘Ebb & Flow’ was infused with the sunnier side of Van Morrison and along with ‘Grateful’ was one of the bouncier moments of the night. The weightier element of Wilson’s music was however the prevalent mood of the show. On a personal note he sang movingly about his infant daughter while making a plea for mothers afflicted by post natal depression. The soaring ‘Sandaig’ was a powerful declaration of autonomy (spelled out on the following cover of Davey Steele’s ‘Scotland Yet’) and a spellbinding ‘Edina’, Wilson’s affectionate yet rough edged hymn to his home city, coupled with The Proclaimers’‘ Sunshine On Leith’ just about brought the house down.
The band were superb with several of the songs prefaced by or closing with atmospheric instrumental passages, one in particular showcasing guitarist Lyle Watt’s liquid notes but always evoking a mystical Celtic hinterland, an element of the Caledonian soul which so excites Wilson and which informs many of his latest songs. ‘Acquainted With The Night/Silent Drums’ was a mesmerising close to the show, the band scintillating as they wove a magical tapestry of guitar, fiddle, accordion and keyboards as if they were ancient bards before coalescing into the driving second half with Wilson roaring by the end. Yeah, Glasgow heard you. Encoring with Sam Cooke’s ‘Bring It On Home To Me’ (a song featured on Van Morrison’s outstanding ‘It’s Too Late To Stop Now’ live album), Wilson and Blue Rose Code brought this outstanding night to an end. They’re surely one of the greatest live acts around right now so if you get a chance to see them in any of their many guises do yourself a favour and go.
Opening the show was Roseanne Reid, a figure well known to the audience after some years of tireless gigging and who is about to release her debut album. The album, produced by Teddy Thompson and featuring Steve Earle, has been long awaited with Earle’s presence a salute to Reid’s song writing skills which have been honed over several residencies at the Texan’s songwriting camps. Reid can write with a true sense of Texan red dirt under her fingernails with her song, ‘Levi’, a perfect example. Tonight the song benefits from a noticeably more confident Reid, her introductions and comments much improved from the last time this reviewer saw her several months ago. Playing familiar songs such as ‘Amy’ and ‘I Love Her So’, both of which will be on the album, she also unveiled several new songs. ‘‘Till Kingdom Come’ was written in lieu of a speech at her recent marriage while her opening ‘Girl, I Took A Chance’ was quite upbeat for her with a hint of a Sun Records swing about it. The audience seemed to share Reid’s excitement regarding the forthcoming album and there was a palpable sense that had she copies on sale tonight she’d have flogged the lot. Look out for it.