It’s great seeing success stories. Formerly of El Hombre Trajeado, Hubby’s first solo album First and Last was originally conceived as a project to take his mind off the death of his parents. It was re-issued by Chemikal Underground, who put out his second solo album, Thirteen Lost and Found. Not only did this see him working with the cream of the Scottish music scene (including Alex Kapranos, Emma Pollock, Aidan Moffat and Alasdair Roberts), but it went on to win the Scottish Album of the Year (SAY award), beating the likes of higher profile musicians Calvin Harris and Emeli Sande.
So here is the third album (and by definition final) in the Ampersand trilogy. Hubby jokes on his website that it’s a bit cheerier than the previous two. Well, it is, but the good news is that it still sounds like Hubby. He’s confronted a number of demons and as he heads towards his fortieth birthday next year, the spirit of the record suggests that he’s coming to terms with what he has been through and enjoying life.
Whereas the previous album featured guest vocalists, this is entirely a solo record, just Hubby and his guitar, singing on the tracks and his own take on a finger-picking style. ‘Bolt’ has been doing the rounds as a promotional track, and it’s a good indication of the album, but it all adds up to one very impressive, beautiful whole.
Added to which, it’s the 200th release on Chemikal Underground, who next year celebrate twenty years as Scotland’s greatest record label. Having also given us Mogwai, Arab Strap, The Delgados and Aereogramme, this is a very fine way to celebrate that milestone.
This was in my inbox this evening when I came home. It’s an album called Whatever Gets You through The Night, and it comes out on November 5 on Biphonic Records (home to Swimmer One and Seafieldroad).
Sixteen tracks in total, this was a live show that took place at the Arches in Glasgow back in June of this year.. This is the accompanying album – 16 brand new songs inspired by the hours between midnight and 4am, by a cross section of Scottish musicians.
And when I say cross-section, it’s Ricky Ross (of Deacon Blue) on the same album as Wounded Knee, Errors on the same album as Rachel Sermanni, Eugene Kelly as Meursault. Lots of 17 Seconds favourites, Swimmer One and Emma Pollock were the first acts I ever interviewed for the blog, over five years ago. There’s a feature over at The Skinny which explains how it came together.
Stream it below, you can also download the Swimmer One track for free.
RM Hubbert/Emma Pollock
Electric Circus, Edinburgh, September 2.
‘There’s two reasons you shouldn’t go on holiday,’ Emma Pollock tells us during her set. ‘The day before -and the day after.’ Hmm, she may not have been kidding. The night of this gig was the night before we went on holiday as a family -and I think it was only because it was Emma Pollock playing that my long-suffering wife acquiesced to my going. As for the day after, well, I’m getting to write this up -and I had a great time at this gig…
I first fell for Emma Pollock’s music in the nineties, when she was a member of The Delgados, my favourite Scottish band ever, and the four people behind what must be Scotland’s longest running independent label so far, Chemikal Underground. In 2005, the band sadly called it a day. Emma has gone on to release two excellent solo LPs, Watch The Fireworks and The Law Of Large Numbers. In addition to this, she has also been involved in Burnsong, The Ballad Of the Book compilation and The Burns Unit (the latter with other Scottish Acts, including King Creosote, Karine Polwart and Karine Polwart).
Tonight, her part of the show is drawn largely on numbers from, er, …Numbers. Armed on with her acoustic guitar, and a bottle of beer, she charms the audience, and I’m reminded that one of the reasons I have been to see her so many times as a solo artist is because she makes the audience warm to her banter inbetween songs. While some artists might make an audience cringe talking about their children and how they’ve influenced a song (see, you’re starting to do it almost involuntarily!), she explains ‘The Child In Me’ as about being in playgrounds with her son and how it brings out her childish side.
The version of ‘Adrenaline’ (no.1 in the 2007 17 Seconds’ Festive Fifty!) is stripped of the piano motif and presented in a much more sober way. I hope she records a version of it this way. She is working on solo album no.3, and amongst the songs she presents is one called ‘Dark Skies.’
This tour with RM Hubbert -or ‘Hubby’ as he is affectionately known-is a co-headliner. Whilst Hubby has been open in the press about his battles with depression, he is endearing on stage, and a warm sense of humour comes across. There is a sense of the openly, nakedly confessional -but more in the between-song patter than lyrically. After all, the bulk of his material is instrumental. But there is a beauty within -and whilst his life has obviously been touched by a great deal of tragedy, you sense that Hubby is (hopefully) working through it. I have encountered far more embarassing cartharsis than this.
And whether it’s songs like ‘SG.666’ or his own take on ‘Car Song’ (which appears on his latest album Thirteen Lost And Found with Aidan Moffat performing the spoken word part), there’s something moving and involving here…
Whether collaborating together or separately, La Pollock and Hubby managed to show that actually a solo artist with just an acoustic guitar can hold a room rapt. This show wasn’t anything like as well attended as it should have been, but I’m surely not the only one who left with a warm glow.
1. Blur ‘Under the Westway.’
2. RM Hubbert ‘Car Song.’
3. Nico ‘I’ll Keep It With Mine.’ Cover version of the week
4. The Last Battle ‘ Breathe Bones, Beathe (session track).’
5. Scars ‘Your Attention Please.’ (Gone but not forgotten).
6. Bwani Junction ‘She Ain’t Saying No.’
7. The Last Battle ‘Hope Is Gold (session track).’ Buy the original version from their bandcamp here
8. Carter Damm ‘Clowning (demo).’
9. Stanley Odd ‘Get Out Ma Headspace.’
10. The Last Battle ‘The Butterfly Song (session track).’
11. The Last Battle ‘Ruins (session track).’
12. Cancel The Atronauts ‘I Sold My Soul (And This Is All I Got).’
RM Hubbert -‘Thirteen Lost & Found’ (Chemikal Underground)
This record has already been gatehring favourable critical notices. Within a few seconds of putting it into the car stereo a few nights ago, I knew I was in for an extremely atmospheric car ride…and indeed it was, as my son and I headed into the cold Scottish January night.
Impressively, this record is largely acoustic. The former El Hombre Trajedo frontman works some kind of alchemy, so that even with just an aocustic guitar the effect can be as powerful as Mogwai at full tilt. And for those, like me, who are excited by these things, the supporting cast list includes (but is by no means exclusive to) Alasdair Roberts, Luke Sutherland (Bows, Long Fin Killie), Emma Pollock and Paul Savage (ex-Delgados), Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand) and Aidan Moffat. It is, quite simply, an album that results in being almost unbearably beautiful.
There is an extremely high likelihood of this record becoming one of the most essential records of 2012. As far as I am concerned, it already is.
Thirteen Lost & Found is out now on Chemikal Underground