Mellowtone @ Leaf 15/3/15

It’s a civilised affair in Leaf’s upstairs room this evening, as diehard fans and curious newcomers alike drink tea under mirror balls and await the arrival of BLUE ROSE CODE – the moniker of Edinburgh-born songwriter Ross Wilson.

Wilson, on a return to one of his favourite cities as part of a lengthy spring tour, makes an understated entrance as he drifts onto and then hangs around at the back of the stage.

There’s no intro or greeting. Instead, he starts playing up and down the guitar, almost jamming an impromptu introduction on his own. He eventually finds his way down stage to the microphone, and gently lifts himself into the first song, In The Morning – Part Two, a new song, with its intricately picked guitar line floating out with ringing guitar harmonics. “I love Liverpool, mainly because of the lovely people you are,” he says early on in the set. He promises the crowd that he definitely doesn’t say this everywhere, and his charm and smirking humour help us believe him. Sort of.

The reason behind this tour, he says, is to develop some of this new material before holing himself up in the studio this summer. Much of it finds its beginnings in two predominant themes, Wilson’s alcoholism and subsequent recovery, and his favoured Scottish poetry. He has the skill and self-awareness to be able to turn the tragedy of his former self-destructive ways into beautiful work such as One Day At A Time, and it is a truly humbling thing to hear.

New songs such as Acquainted With The Night and Scotland, both based on poems, declare his love for his home country, as do older numbers like Ghosts Of Leith, and there are plenty of moments where Wilson’s incredible voice can bring a lump to the most hardy of throats when singing of his recent, and more distant, past. He’s seen rock bottom, and has turned the experience into some beautiful modern folk music. At times, he stands so far back from the mic that it’s hard to see why he even needs one, such is the guttural, earthy power of his voice. There’s more than a hint of Otis in his Caledonian soul musings, and just a slightly audible hint of his Scottish accent, which often recalls the acoustic ramblings of Roddy Frame. He’s gutted to have to finish the set but, as he completes new song My Heart Was The Sun, it’s clear to see that, for an artist who at one point thought he’d reached a desperate end, this is very much just the beginning.

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