Ross Wilson is back. A couple or so months hence, one of my first out bound missions for FRUK was to interview Ross a.k.a. Blue Rose Code (read the interview here). Being big fans of North Ten we made it one of our inaugural featured albums. On the day of our meeting my technical gremlins were overcome by Ross’ generosity and I was invited into his home, meeting his partner Julie and two dogs.
Over the course of a couple of hours the story of Ross’ troubled life unfolded and he surprised me with honesty and candour. I responded with what I hoped would be seen as equal honesty in writing as accurate a summary of what he had told me as I could, primarily because the story seemed to have arrived at a point of transition, redemption and hope. Tonight is the satisfying proof of that.
There is a lot of love in the room and support act Jess Morgan gets to feel some of that too. She has a strong voice, a keen pen, a disarming line or two and a hat full of humbugs with her website address attached. As I miss out on the sweeties I press a card into her palm as she’s already been a feature on the site (listen to her FRUK session here), the news that Jess returns to the venue in to headline her own show in September is most welcome.
In truth the Slaughtered Lamb is as full as I’ve seen it, hot sweaty and noisy at the interval. As Ross picks his way through the assembled, there are lots of greetings – not vacuous air kissing, but beefy hugs and back slapping. By the time he’s tuned up he’s wearing a grin from ear to ear.
Blue Rose Code are a four piece for tonight and Ross announces the first song as, “A song actually written about something else, but one that has come to represent hope and a new beginning.” The ripples of his guitar introduce Come The Springtime, as potent a love song as you’re likely to hear and the line, “With Aurora Borealis as my witness,” is the first predictable moisty-eyed emotional spike.
From Wester Ross To Nova Scotia demonstrates Ross’ tendency to step back from the microphone and let rip. His voice is easily capable of filling this basement bar without recourse to a PA, yet can also fall to an intimate confessional. One feels for Joe, the regular soundman, but he’s alive to every move and so there is nothing to fault in the mix. The band Lizzie Ogle on fiddle, Steve Smith on guitar, banjo and voice and Samantha Whates on harmonies are just about prefect. It’s a leaner sound than the record, but none the worse for it.
The crowd also seem caught in every sway and are hushed to pin-drop during the songs with each finale greeted with rapturous cheers. Even songs less familiar to owners of North Ten, the Robert Frost poem set to music of Acquainted With The Night, or the elegiac Where The Wester Winds Do Carry Me, which as Ross explains is about, “Being powerless,” are readily lapped up.
It’s stunning stuff, even when Ross reveals that two songs about Edinburgh – Ghosts Of Leith and Like Wildfire – are not where he is at right now. He’s even forced to admit that he left the city with his tail between his legs, but there’s also a big smile that presages his imminent return for a gig there, with a sly nod that he’ll have to, “Get his stories straight for that one.” November’s Ghost in the encore also refers back to his previous life, but that will return us to tear duct territory.
Yet Ross has subsequently made his life in London. The song Whitechapel is turned into a passionate stand for a multi-cultural view of the capital city. We are reminded that even in the face of the horrors of Woolwich, extremism is ugly whichever side it purports to align with and a day of filming with the Whitechapel Mosque planned, to which we are all invited. It brings a big cheer from those here tonight.
Julie, also the first single from the album, speaks of finding solace and security and is movingly turned into a sing-along with the audience willingly following Ross’ lead through an extended coda of, “If you’re feeling like I don’t love your bones, well I want you to know that I love your soul.” It’s performed with gusto all round.
When he finishes with This Is Not A Love Song, the words have morphed into, “This is not a folk song,” as he recalls a returned demo, with post it note attached, delivering the verdict on his music. You can’t help but smile as he demonstrates an eye for a news story and wraps up saying, “OK! Get ready with the eggs.” Well you asked for it Ross, so how about, “Egg-cellent,” or “Egg-static,” most people seem to have got to the latter because of the former. As someone shouts out at one point, “It’s because we love you, man.” Yeah, we do and you know what? You’ve earned that.
Live Review by: Simon Holland