Old-time music from Scottish troubadour – good times for all.
Releasing a record in December is a mixed blessing for any songwriter who might want to appear in a ‘Best of Year’ list, but it does mean that it opens up the stocking filler market, and this new record by Scottish folk stalwart Robin Adams would likely put the widest smile on any recipient.
Adams eschews his former folk style for an album steeped in old-time Americana, hoovering up all the best acoustic sounds from the mountains of Appalachia to the cowboy tradition of the West, with an occasional dash of delta blues and New Orleans jazz and swing. The primary colours of this record are provided by banjo, fiddle, dobro and harmonica, and it is an absolute delight from start to finish.
Where Adams triumphs over others who take this musical path, is not to be too earnest in his creations. There is a frequent wryness to the songs, whether in a sly, witty lyric, or a musical nuance. Overall, the record sounds like it has been made by people who are experts in their craft, but have taken the night off to make music for fun in a local hostelry. As a listener, you’re just happy to be there!
It’s impossible to pick a highlight, each song is the equal of the one before, and it is just a joyous ride from start to end. The opening title track comes in with an easy roll of a groove, and the words “swear I thought I’d rode right back to 1889”. Musically, this seems a spot on reference – there is an absolute timelessness throughout the record. ‘Too Far Gone’ has a delicious Western swing sound, with some gorgeous steel guitar and fiddle interlinking. ‘Your Games’ sounds like it could have come from the well-spring of Stephen Foster, or possibly a sister song to ‘Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain’ (albeit with a more modern lyric). Short, sweet, and really that good.
‘Nobody Blues’, meanwhile, sounds like an off-cut from prime Ronnie Lane in his Slim Chance days. So much fun. ‘The Ballad of Tommy Shanter’ gives an Americana reading of the old Burns tale of Tam O’Shanter, and is a highly entertaining reading of a drunkard’s tale, with wonderful use of the eerie tones of a saw to capture the spirits partying. The record closes out with ‘Floorboard Blues’; and what initially seems a cheap-shot humorous drinking song, actually becomes something rather tender – though that may be because we see it all through the eyes of the inebriant!
Whatever, you are really unlikely to hear a more enjoyable record this year or next, so pour yourself something nice and dive right in. Arriving in the holiday season, this collection is the gift that will go on giving.