“I see you on the road, trying to find your way home and I wish you peace in your heart…”
A new (old) album from one of my favourite artists Blue Rose Code, ‘Curios 2009 – 2020’ is a collection of B-sides, rarities and singles, including several unreleased tracks. Strictly limited edition and, furthermore, only available on Bandcamp or the band’s website, its release is being used to finance the band’s sixth studio album, slated for release in May 2024.
Blue Rose Code is Edinburgh-born songwriter Ross Wilson. At the edge of contemporary alt-folk, Wilson’s music evokes a meeting of Van Morrison and a young John Martyn, both shipwrecked with a bunch of Motown records.
When I heard there was a new studio release in the offing I was straight in to order this limited edition CD, Ross is one of the best songwriters around at this moment in time and any music he writes is always something to savour and take with you for ever.
I wrote these words about Blue Rose Code’s album ‘With Healings Of The Deepest kind’;
“When it comes to music that salves the soul and gives joy to the heart, this album has few peers. An utter musical joy and one that everyone should listen to at least once, it has an honesty and innocence that is rare in the music industry these days.”
I always consider it an honour to able to review music as special as this so read on to see how I feel…
Chasing Sunlight (2016) is a single that came shortly after the release of ‘…And Lo! The Bird Is On The Wing’, the album that introduced me to Blue Rose Code, but was too late to be included on the record. It’s a wonderfully breezy and light stepping piece of music with elegant, intertwined male and female vocals and a stunning horn performance from jazz legend Colin Steele. There’s a fine acoustic guitar solo and the lap steel playing just adds to the easy going and uplifting atmosphere. Love (2009) was BRC’s first ever single and features utterly gorgeous vocals from Samantha Whates and Ross that just add to the wistful, laid back and ever so lush atmosphere created by the elegant string arrangement, what a beautiful piece of music! November’s Ghost – Live At The Queens Hall (2017) was written by Ross after the death of his grandmother and moving to London. This touching version is taken from his homecoming show at Edina’s Queens Hall in 2017. There’s a tender, loving feel to Ross’ vocal on this pared back track. Aided and abetted by some delicate guitar playing, you can feel the feeling of loss in his voice and it makes this simple piece ever so poignant. Polaris – Live At Gloworm Studios (2017), this is a haunting, dreamlike version of a favourite track from the 2017 release ‘The Waters Of Leith’. The piano and echoing strings meander mystically through your psyche, never really touching you but always leaving its mark on this meditative journey. I thought I’d heard everything that Ross could deliver since I first became a fan but (I Wish You) Peace In Your Heart (2020) is rapidly becoming one of my favourite BRC tracks. Written coming out of the pandemic, it’s a song of hope for reconnection and an embracing of human interdependence. It just sings of hope, faith and optimism in such a beautiful way. The sublime horn and Ross and Karine Polwart’s spiritual vocals, added to the graceful piano, just leave a warm feeling in your soul and a lump in your throat, an utterly stunning piece of music.
Sunday (2019) was written to be included on ‘With Healings Of The Deepest Kind’ but was released ahead of UK and Ireland tour as the album’s writing stalled. Another delightfully upbeat song akin to Chasing… there’s a wonderful feeling of belief and optimism to this graceful track and the music is just superb. Ever since I first heard the music, Blue Rose Code have had a sort of defined sound to me and Acquainted With The Night (2012) is the first piece I’ve heard where they take a major detour from that. A Robert Frost poem put to music, late in the ‘North Ten’ sessions, it has a low down, darker hue than most of Ross’s other tracks and stands out because of that, but in a very good way. The insistent guitar and Ross’ low vocals, combined with the contemplative, almost psychedelic, keyboards, give some real drama to this impressive song. Sallyann (2017) is an ode to two people who were like Ross’ surrogate parents during his tumultuous time in London. A story of two childhood sweethearts, Terry and Sally, in East London who were reunited after following their own journeys through life to spend twenty years together before Sally died of cancer in 2016 with Terry by her side. It’s a beautifully poignant piece of music that really tugs at the heartstrings with Ross’ patient vocal and some more of that gorgeous lap steel. Another memorable track with power and passion, (I Will) Lay you Down (2018) is a love song and a plea for peace and relief, written for a woman suffering with severe post-natal depression. There’s a heartfelt feel to the vocals and a peaceful air to the guitar and piano as this graceful song glides effortlessly along, highlighted by some sublime guitar playing. It’s a very compelling piece of music that builds in intensity as it continues and finishes with a profoundly moving solo. 100 Years (2019) was written for Ross’ performance at No Man’s Land at Perth Theatre, a special concert commemorating 100 years since Armistice Day and follows a young Scot who lies about his age to sign up for the Blackwatch and go to the Front to give his life. A melancholy and plaintive track that lays bare the feelings of loss and of doing your duty, it is a profound statement that bleeds a wishful yearning.
Written in a little cottage just outside Biggar, like most of ‘The Waters Of Leith’ and recorded during those sessions, Lonely (2018) shows a clear line-of-sight to where Wilson will take his music and band in the years to come. There’s a proper feeling of Americana to this song, the vocals and music having a definite country feel to them but that Scottish brogue always means it never strays completely that way. I love the harmonised female backing vocals and the stunning performance on lead guitar from a young Lyle Watt, a track I keep returning to. Now we get to THE song that defines Blue Rose Code for me, the sublime, wonderful Grateful (2015). Up until hearing the version on this release, I’d only ever heard the abridged version on ‘…And Lo!…’ or live versions and this full version, featuring Nashville Gospel legends, The McCrary Sisters, just absolutely blew me away. Written by Ross upon leaving rehab in Bournemouth, its simple message is delivered with class and the music has a laid back, jazzy refinement to it that is just brilliant. The vocals from Ross and The McCrary Sisters are just perfect and lend this sublime song all the gravitas it could ever need, just stunning! Ardroil (2012) is perhaps the most Celtic track on this collection, especially with the striking fiddle playing and subtle vocals. A little known gem, released as a b-side to Julie (from the album ‘North Ten’) all those years ago, Ardroil is an other-worldly beach in Uig, Isle of Lewis and this marvellous piece definitely has that other-worldly feel to it. Scotland Yet (2017) was written by the late, great Davy Steele and commissioned for the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. Ross gives this simple tune a feel of grace and refinement, realising that it needs no embellishment and it closes out the album with pride and dignity.
There is nothing better than music that connects with you at a basic level, music that moves you and music that almost becomes part of you and Ross Wilson and Blue Rose Code create music that is all that and more. This collection of B-sides, varieties and singles is something that should be cherished and I, for one, cannot wait for 2024 and a new album from this incredible musician. Ross Wilson, my friend, I wish you peace in your heart…
Released 3rd November, 2023.
Order from band camp here: