As summer draws to a close and the brisk autumn air stirs, one may survey their changing surroundings and pause, reflect and take a moment to contemplate their journey and anticipate what lies ahead. For RM Hubbert the release of ‘Ampersand Extras’ – a collection of B-sides and rare recordings – concludes his self-titled trilogy, exploring in detail the Scotsman’s musical pilgrimage so far. Brimming with wistful, rustic compositions, it also stands as the ideal accompaniment to any solitary introspective musings of your own.
Since he sauntered onto the Glaswegian D.I.Y music scene in 1991, the virtuoso guitarist and self-confessed compulsive-collaborator has toured with Post-rock consort Mogwai and supported Emma Pollock, Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat to name a few. Most recently ‘Hubby’ scored the Scottish Album of the Year Award in 2013 for his third L.P, ‘Thirteen Lost & Found’. A tremendously notable feat that is echoed here on ‘Ampersand Extras’, through an expressive display of covers, collaborations and self-penned guitar pieces of resounding, often understated beauty.
Hubby’s dynamic and distinctive guitar style is recognised the instant the needle drops. ‘Pb’ an ode to Princess, the mother of his treasured dog D-Bone, begins with a flurry of flamenco infused notes from his right hand and a graceful, recurring melody established in open tuning with the left. Hubby’s idiosyncratic style is the by-product of an early fascination with the passion and aggression of flamenco music crossed with the clamour and spirit of the lo-fi American indie music of his youth.
Take the legendary flamenco music of Paco De Lucia, add a healthy helping of Black Flag, Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth and lastly top it off with the ambient influence of Post-Rock and leave to stand in Glasgow for around forty years and you’ll hopefully have something similar to the sound emanating from Hubby’s fingertips. Hunched over his custom made guitar and consumed by the sound of his nylon strings, over these eleven confessional tracks you can hear and witness it all coming together.
‘Canine Shaped Frogs’, ‘For Fuck Sake D, Sit Nice’ and ‘Sticky Pine’ are all solo instrumental pieces and have a strong sense of pastoral warmth about them, especially the latter, which delicately unfolds like a lost Iron & Wine b-side. You can imagine when listening to this album on vinyl, in the medium Hubby intended, the soft crackle and rise and fall of the record would really complement the tenderly applied harmonics, percussive breathing and occasional fret-buzz on the record; adding to the already, incredibly intimate atmosphere.
‘Hanging Points’ and ‘Elliot’ feel more mellifluous and melancholic in nature than anything else on the album. Hubby said of his third album, ‘Breaks & Bone’, that it was a bit cheerier than his previous output and both these track sound as if they were unearthed from earlier sessions. ‘Hanging Points’ softly builds into a rapturous mini-epic and becomes a recurring mediative force due to the rousing, climactic tapping.
‘Elliot’ a track that features the help of Luke Sutherland (main-member of Lon Fin Kille, Bows and occasionally Mogwai) is an equally profound, fine-spun affair. Lead by a solid acoustic picking pattern, layers of reverb-laden electric guitar swell and ring out around it, creating a truly bewitching and pensive duet.
‘Song For Jenny’ features Falkirk’s homegrown novelist and playwright, Alan Bissett expressing the trials and tricks of educating a primary school class. Feverishly impassioned, he addresses the class in old English and riffs over the top of Hubby’s accompanying ‘hymnal music’, in such a way that when he announces “hit there childish souls with your passion for literature!” you can almost picture him proudly stood upon a desk in a ‘Dead Poets Society’ fashion.
Touring partner, Emma Pollock and eminent folk talent, Alasdair Roberts pair up with Hubbert to tackle the last track on the compilation, Matteo Salvatore’s elegant Italian folk duet, ‘Mo Ve’lla Bella Mia De La Muntagna’. Here, the trio seamlessly capture the romantic allure of the original, not dissimilar to Hubby’s personal take of Daniel Johnston’s ‘True Love Will Find You In The End’. It resonates with a poignancy and undercurrent of hope oft experienced in his own compositions and when he sings, the overriding meaning and simplistic beauty of the lyrics surpass any need for an overblown vocal delivery.
As previously emphasised, this album doesn’t just serve as a reminder of Hubby’s originality and musical prowess. It also gives us a unique insight of where he’s been, the music that has influenced him and it recalls the success of his collaborations with fellow Scot’s on the scene. But, most importantly like any great record, it leaves us eager to find out where he’s heading next.
Review by: David Weir
Released on 13th of October on Chemikal Underground
18/09 – Dublin, The Workmans Club
19/09 – Limerick, Kasbah Social Club
20/09 – Kilkenny, Hole In The Wall
21/09 – Clonakilty, Clonakilty International Guitar Festival
25/09 – Bishop’s Castle, Bishop’s Castle Town Hall
26/09 – Truro, Hall For Cornwall
27/09 – Exeter, The Cavern
30/09 – Bath, The Bell Inn
01/10 – Manchester, Cornhouse
Pre-Order on Vinyl via: Amazon