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’.