The current refugee crisis on Syria has prompted a huge number of responses from the music world. This one is the brainchild of singer-songwriter Robin Adams who called on assorted luminaries from the (mostly Scottish) folk world to put together an album that addressed refugee issues from different perspectives of the crisis, although the end result focuses primarily on the search for safety and sanctuary, both physically and emotionally.
Kicking things off is indie legend Duglas T. Stewart, the voice and founder of late 80s outfit BMX Bandits, breathily channeling Lou Reed on the slow shuffling How Not To Care with its vague dub undercurrent.
Also from around the Glasgow area come psychfolk duo Mike and Solveig (featuring Mike Hastings of Trembling Bells and Solveig Askvik) with the acoustic circling guitar work of Ravioli and, staying in Glasgow circles, next up is noted Scottish folkie Alasdair Roberts with the stately fingerpicked Scarce of Fishing, originally a traditional song about a Scottish fisherman on the Isle of Skye faced with a diminishing catch, but here taking more global resonances. Robin Adams’ own contribution which spawned the project follows, The Devil’s War and God’s Blue Sea is a lyrically direct protest song about the struggle refugees face in fleeing their homes and seeking to cross the ocean in “death-trap ships” to find safety… “for we must breach the lanes that stretch across each foreign heart”.
Shifting location, from London (although he still splits his time between England, France and Italy) comes songwriter Piers Faccini with the sparse percussion driven folk blues This Morning The Birds then, taking a wider geographical leap, pastoral Swedish singer-songwriter Jenny Lysander (whose album Faccini produced) contributes the reflective, hushed and fingerpicked acoustic slow waltzing The Horn Still Blows.
Returning to Scotland, one of the two best known names here, Ricky Ross of Deacon Blue fame brings his distinctive vocals and dreamy melodic style to bear on the aching Baby What’s To Know followed, in turn, by the other luminary as Linda Thompson takes to the piano for the stark lost love lament Witchseason.
If these are a little off the obvious refugee path, Bonnie Prince Billy steers things back on course with the quietly strummed Most People, another new song, which shifts tempo midway through and features the lines “my friends are all gone, my mother is gone, my actions absolve her, our days to come can’t be thought upon.”
The falsetto-voiced lead singer with the Glasgow-based The Phantom Band, Rick Redbeard maintains the reflective, downbeat mood with the piano and guitar accompanied journeys-themed Postcards before passing the baton to Strathspey’s Rachel Sermanni for one of the albums standout out numbers, the gently rippling Innocent. Another underrated name from Scotland’s folk scene is Kathryn Joseph, here accompanying herself on nervy spare piano and conjuring Kate Bush thoughts for the haunted mood of The Lines. His star on the ascendant, Glasgow’s Roddy Hart is also behind piano for West, another minimal number that focuses on the pivotal theme of journey and transition and the dreams of home left behind.
Making another huge geographical leap, the penultimate tracks comes from Austin’s avant folkie Dana Falconberry, her echoey vocals backed by strummed acoustic guitar on The Dusk, a track taken from last year’s bedroom recorded EP, The Lowering Night. The album closes back in Newcastle-upon-Tyne with experimental folk maverick Richard Dawson’s discordant instrumental and wordless wailing vocals To The Sea capturing the tempestuous nature of those fraught, exposed travels and travails.
Released on July 5th, all the money made from sales with go to Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) the Malta-based charity which runs rescue missions in the Aegean, Andaman and Mediterranean Sea. It’s already saved 12,000 lives. Buying this album will help it save more.
Out on July 5th via BrainFog Records