Conquering Animal Sound – Ultimate Heat Death of the Universe

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Very excited about this.  Great to hear them back sounding mature and ready to conquer the world with their new album ‘On Floating Bodies’ out on 18 March.  Be sure to listen to the track and get your hands on the album when you can.

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Rick Redbeard – No Selfish Heart

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Who said traditional Scottish music couldn’t be brought to a more mainstream/alternative audience? There have been attempts in the past – Roddy Woomble of Idlewild most noticeably bridged the divide with his brilliant debut record ‘My Secret Is My Silence’.  Sadly, he has never followed up this debut with anything of any real worth, in my opinion.

Rick Redbeard however, is a very different proposition.  Lead singer of the hugely alternative, challenging and popular act The Phantom Band there was always going to be a huge amount of interest in his debut solo album not just because of his day job but because this album has been anticipated for about 6 years or more.  Rick Redbeard – or Rick Anthony to those who know him – has been working on these songs and performing as Rick Redbeard for god knows how long now but it’s only now that he has finally managed to get a record completed and released.  Who knows why things take so long in the world of art but let’s just be glad that he’s finally managed to get this record to the world.

By no means is this a stunning album in terms of creativity or originality like we have come to know from The Phantom Band.  However, what it lacks in originality it makes up for in sheer beauty.  Songs like ‘Old Blue’ and ‘Kelvin Grove’ are traditional in their grain and absolutely gorgeous with Anthony’s voice is as wonderful as ever.

I am not claiming that this is an exceptional album because it’s not.  It falls within a certain style of music typified by the wonderful Will Oldham and it holds its own with ease, but by no means would I be shouting from the roof tops about it were it not that it actually takes the Scottish traditional folk song and pulls that style in to the spotlight by the scruff of the neck.  For this album will receive lots of attention, in Scotland at least, and may actually make people realise that there is a history and tradition to Scottish folk music that is much richer and deeper than most seem to recognise.  Some of the tunes on ‘No Selfish Heart’ are straight up Scottish folk music with no alternative edge to them whatsoever.  They are not dressed up in any way.  And that, for me, is what makes the record special.  Embracing our heritage and tradition and pushing it out there in a way that is accessible and contemporary.  Rick Redbeard does this with skill and grace.

So no.  It’s not stunning for its originality.  In fact, it’s the fact that it’s been done so many times before that makes this record so special because in this day and age where bands stop being true to themselves and chasing fame and money there is still a place for such beautiful traditional music.  Like Anthony himself sings:

‘We’ll still sing the old blue love songs’.

Enjoy.

Fionn Regan – The Bunkhouse Vol 1: Anchor Black Tattoo

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If you had asked me at the start of this year what artists I would like to hear a new album from in 2013, Fionn Regan would definitely have been somebody I’d have mentioned.  If you had said would you like to hear a record by Fionn Regan that involves nothing more than his voice and guitar, I think I’d probably have chewed your hand off!

‘End of History’ his debut album is still one of my favourite records and seeing him live supporting Midlake with nothing more than his guitar and the odd piece of percussion was something quite special.  2 albums followed ‘End of History’, one where he went full on Dylan and picked up an electric guitar and one more restrained but with various pieces of accompanying instrumentation.  And now this new album returns Regan to where he seems most comfortable and alive – him and his guitar.

Such was Regan’s confidence in the songs that after recording the initial tracks he said “not going to get much better than that” and left them alone.  And to be honest, he was probably spot on with his assessment.  I am not sure how he could have made this collection of songs better.  This is a bare, raw and honest record that showcases his talent as a singer, song-writer and guitarist and confirms his status as one of the most exciting solo artists around.

And yet, he remains relatively unknown.  Whilst he flourishes as a songwriter and consistently produces album of depth and feeling nobody seems to notice.  Nobody really seems to write about him and I just don’t understand why because yet again he has produced a piece of work worthy of discussion and worthy of attention.

Yet, part of me likes that he hasn’t received the acclaim he deserves, or that Lucinda Williams predicted, because he kind of remains unknown and untainted by too many cooks.  He does what he does and what he wants and he does it brilliantly.  Never more so than on tracks like ‘Midnight Ferry Crossing’ or album closer ‘Moving to Berlin’, which are simply gorgeous.  And tracks like ‘Anchor Black Tattoo’ and ‘The Bunkhouse’ feel like they could have been taken straight from his debut.

This is his best effort since his stunning debut without a doubt.  And that’s not belittling the work in between, that’s just pointing out that when Fionn Regan works only with his voice and his acoustic guitar there are not many that can come close to him.

I want to say check him out but part of me wants to keep him for myself.  Still, you’d be a fool not to check out his new album.

Enjoy.