During the six years since his debut, Roddy Woomble’s tours and collaborations seem to have helped him grow as a solo artist. The musicianship and production are as fantastic here as on My Secret Is Silence, yet there has been a significant development in his song-writing abilities.
His work with folk stalwarts Kris Drever and John McCusker has probably helped towards the rounded sound of the album, but whereas his debut was understated, beautiful folk, his new songs push into slightly different territory. It is still riddled with familiar Woombley characteristics, though: the distinct accent, storytelling lyrics and poetic ear for detail that provide wonderful sounds to his sentences. The half-spoken words of ‘New Frontier’ showcase this lyrical talent: “We were forced to chop up the train seats and tables for the fire / as the wind howled through the windows / and the brown lace curtains couldn’t kill the breeze.”
The influence of Scottish musicians like Dick Gaughan is apparent from Woomble’s sound, and his Scottish identity is emphasised when certain town names or traditional folk instruments crop up. However, that isn’t the only musical history he keeps in mind. The gentle train-like shuffle of ‘New Frontier’ hints at Americana before fading into the minor-keyed, psych-tinged ‘Old Town.’
In contrast, his time with Idlewild can be heard in the poppy, uplifting chorus of ‘Gather the Day’ and ‘Hour After Hour.’ The latter has some interesting experimental touches in the keyboards and atmospheric female backing vocals.
It could perhaps be too much of a move away from his previous work, since it’s the softer, more traditional songs such as ‘Tangled Wire’ and ‘Living As You Always Have’ that stand out. Still, it is as good as his first album, and more ambitious in its musical range. ‘Roll Along’ begins with rock-and-roll style piano and features wonderful saxophone from Rob Hall. Woomble’s musicians really bring the songs together, and guests include violinist Aidian O’Rourke (of LAU) and accordionist Phil Cunningham.
Though tracks are individuated by melodic hooks, it is the depth Woomble finds within the genre of folk-rock that makes the album work as a whole.
Words: Alice Knapp