Sunday, 26 May, 2024 in Culture, Live Reviews, Music

Into Music Album Review: Bright Circumstance | Blue Rose Code

Album: Bright Circumstance
Artist: Blue Rose Code

I took my time in considering whether to review Bright Circumstance, the new album from Blue Rose Code. The main reason being that sometimes the spiritual elements of a piece of art lose something in the telling. The intangibles that reveal themselves to each individual in their own way can be betrayed by even the most well-intentioned critique.

Another reason was that I was privileged to be involved in producing the films of the live Blue Rose Code sessions which included five of the album’s tracks, well in advance of the studio album’s release. The melodies and the messages had, by then, already touched my very soul and there’s surely a magnificent rainbow in Ross Wilson’s soul.

So, this is my take. Other takes are, of course, available, inevitable and encouraged!

The new album isn’t just a collection of new songs. It’s a culmination. An affirmation. A perfect storm, where passion and musical talents collide. Extraordinary talent, in fact. Blue Rose Code is an ever-evolving group of the best musicians who, no matter the tweaking of the line-up, deliver again and again.

And so to the music. They say comparisons are odious but please indulge me a little.

In Jericho, there hasn’t been as joyous an opening song since Van Morrison’s Real Real Gone gateway track on his 1990 Enlightenment album. Ross’s own take on the proclamation of survival and redemption signals the ambitions and intent of the collection of songs that follow.

Anyone who has followed Ross Wilson’s career will be aware of his ability to present raw emotion in a form which draws you in through superlative songcraft. Not one to rest on his laurels, though, Sadie, displays an honesty and bravery that few modern day songwriters could or would be willing to commit to sharing with the world. The ‘Sadie’ of the title is Ross’s now departed mother. The narrative doesn’t shy away from their uneasy relationship and her addictions which ultimately took her from this earth. The song was written shortly before she died and by then there had been a reconciliation which seems to have given Ross the strength to tell her story.

I won’t continue with a song by song review except for a couple of stand out moments for me, but the two songs already mentioned exemplify the rollercoaster of emotions that this incredible album will take you on.

It’s clear that Ross is a thoughtful and questioning individual away from his musical sojourns and Bright Circumstance contains some of those questions when it is not proclaiming a solid faith. The line, ‘Do you ever ask yourself?’ from the newly configured version of Thirteen Years (the previous incarnation fairly rocked!) moves from self-reflection and directs the listener to reflect on the faux-politics of austerity and warmongering in the world today and in particular, under the UK Tory Government of the aforementioned ‘thirteen years’. Again, a brave departure for Blue Rose Code to be so openly political, but, as they say, ‘It needed saying!’

I approached the cover of Amazing Grace with trepidation as it is a song that I’ve never had any great affection for but, almost predictably, this rendition adds nuance and layers which softens the blow for me. Its inclusion on the album makes perfect sense as anyone who is more than just a casual listener can easily determine.

Comparison alert again, although not directly with any other song…

By the time we get to Easy As We Go it becomes clear to me that we are listening to an artist and band which compares favourably with John Martyn at the peak of his powers. I don’t say this lightly. I suspect, with this album, that Ross Wilson and the gathered musicians of Blue Rose Code, will finally break free of the ‘under the radar’ status that has lingered for far too long.

I was delighted to see the inclusion of Peace In Your Heart. Having heard live renditions of it over the last year, I am so glad it’s been commited to vinyl (or digital if that’s your thing). If ever a song should be listened to lying on your bed with the speakers propped up either side of your head (one for the older generation), this is that song. A lilting melody and tempo that is as sweet as nectar and in the same four minutes, uplifting. If you find yourself drifting on the BRC waves, go with the flow.

The album concludes with several songs which are deeply, deeply emotional and this is where I get off the song review train and hope that listeners old and new feel, as I do, the pervading sense of loss, supplication and hope on a very human level (with maybe a little help from the Divine).

I’ve witnessed first-hand how Ross Wilson manages to carry some of the best musicians in the land with him no matter where he takes his ideas (lyrically or musically). He has always ploughed his own furrow but he has turned over fertile soil here and has cultivated a magical, spiritual and significant body of work on this album.

They say that the Devil has the best tunes, but God has the best buildings. Ross is building something very special indeed.

TOP TIP: Buy this album first then explore the back catalogue!

Stephen Cameron

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