Roseanne Reid “Lawside”

Last Man Music, 2023

Beautifully crafted songwriting with Celtic roots.

After only one listen ‘Lawside’ left this reviewer with an overwhelming sense of completeness. Roseanne Reid tells stories, provokes thought and explores a range of emotions without a surplus word to melodies and arrangements that draw from a wide range of styles. If americana dominated her 2019 debut ‘Trails’, ’Lawside’ returns Reid to her Scottish roots. Through simple but fabulously effective instrumentation runs an unmistakable Celtic streak. To her previously soft Appalachian sound Reid now puts her vocals right up front. All pulled together ‘Lawside’ is a complete success.

A lot has happened in Reid’s life since ‘Trails’, much of which features in the new record. The first clue comes in the title. Lawside is the part of Dundee where Reid and her wife moved from Edinburgh. Then there was the pandemic and more recently, the arrival of their son, to whom the album is dedicated. The subject of one song, he rightly pops up elsewhere but as Reid probes the human condition in its various guises, she does so less from direct personal experience and more from her acute observation of others. Whether loss, or a night on the tiles, Roseanne’s sparse style paints pictures of touching detail. ‘Lawside’ exudes a deep sense of contentment. Even the production is relaxed. In contrast to ‘Trails’ which was produced and recorded by Teddy Thompson over a few hectic days in Brooklyn, Reid called on old friend and musical partner David Macfarlane to produce ‘Lawside’ in his studio up the River Tay in Perth. As she did writing the songs, they took their time recording and that unhurried feel makes the listener even more welcome. If those are the contrasts the two albums are connected by Reid’s intervening EP, ‘Horticulture’, a taste of what was to come.

‘All I Need’ opens as Reid harmonises with Rory Butler contrasting the certainty of love to its complete opposite. “And I’m still running when you call, afraid I’m going to lose it all” to, “But she reassures me with those eyes, there’s no need to discuss”. If cheery in pace and tune ‘Daisy Chain’ is laden with regret at a life unfulfilled. Reid conveys the heavy stillness of the lockdown when she wrote the song. A melancholy, “And I’m sure I don’t know what I’m doing half the time/ But I know I ain’t coming back again” melds hopelessness with determination. And all conveyed in so few words. Macfarlane’s fiddle and banjo add distance to those initial feelings while Bjørn Tomren’s backing vocals boost hope.

The gentle singer/songwriter tinged with americana characterises with ‘All My Days’, a muse about life before, and the life of, caring for a small child. As if the love overflowing in Reid’s soft voice is not enough, Owen Nicholson’s pedal steel pours on further emotion. ‘Couldn’t Wish More For You’ stays with the joys of motherhood but this time in pure Celtic folk. Reid’s Scottish accent is a reminder of Eddi Reader singing Burns, “May you find the sun in a galaxy long”. Full of tenderness ‘Made Just For You’ is almost a lullaby to her little boy as she gently strums, “Well I think I was made for one thing only” says it all.

Still in reflection mode but without a care, ‘Mona Lisa’ is a rollicking tale of when, “It was Mona Lisa she bought me tequila”, the hilarity that followed, “I Highland flung myself across the room” until “…the morning light hits the room”. Reid lets rip to fiddle, banjo, mandolin and for full folk authenticity, bodhran. Long in the making, Reid enlisted the help of her wife to finish the job. Lawside brims with songwriting talent. Cranking up the sound again, the soul-drenched vocals and fervent brass section of ‘Call It Love’ turns Perth into Memphis.

Songs about a newborn, songs about emotions felt more generally are joined by one about a specific person. ‘Shine On’ is Reid’s reaction to the tragic death of television presenter Caroline Flack. Lyrics of deep sadness to a swirling blend of keys and lap steel feel as if they are taking a troubled soul to a better place.

Proclaimer dad Craig will not be surprised at his daughter’s achievement and neither will Steve Earle who spotted her talent at one of his Camp Copperhead writing workshops. ‘Lawside’ is an album of beautifully crafted songwriting that should propel Roseanne Reid in a similar direction.

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9/10
9/10

About Lyndon Bolton 143 Articles
Writing about americana, country, blues, folk and all stops in between
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