Progressive and poetic performance from Blue Rose Code

Blue Rose Code, aka Ross Wilson, had a backing band in tow for his return to the isles. Photo: Dave Donaldson
Blue Rose Code, aka Ross Wilson, had a backing band in tow for his return to the isles. Photo: Dave Donaldson

There have been plenty of treats for gig-goers recently. From Punch Brothers to The Lone Bellow promoters Ragged Wood show no sign of slowing down.

This was evidenced by another jam-packed night of quality music at the Mareel auditorium on Thursday.

Opening the entertainment was Kansa, who all turned up sharply dressed and ready to rock. The six-piece bluegrass group has been busy, having played the same stage a couple of weeks ago for the Hank Williams tribute night, Settin The Woods on Fire.

Kansa's opening set was a polished performance. Photo: Dave Donaldson
Kansa’s opening set was a polished performance. Photo: Dave Donaldson

Starting the set with their take on Rabbit In The Log the frontwomen of Karlyn Garrick and Norma Wishart played off each other with fantastic vocal harmonies. They went on to play a series of songs including renditions of Williams’ Kaw-ligah and a fantastic rendition of Fleet Foxes’ White Winter Hymnal, which saw double bassist Adam Priest join the ladies for a three-piece vocal harmony.

Overall Kansa sounded extremely polished.

Next up were the “Welsh-issippian” duo of Al Lewis and Alva Leigh – otherwise known as Lewis and Leigh. This is their second recent visit, having played last September. Word of mouth from those performances meant there were quite a few people excited to see them.

The set started off with “the first song we ever wrote together” What Is There To Do, which immediately showcased how the pair bounce off each other vocally. They furthered their “Shetland credentials” by making

They furthered their “Shetland credentials” by making a quip about a certain airline service before introducing their song All Night Drive. Apparently, it “turned out it wasn’t Fly-maybe we flew up with, but Fly-definitely”, indicating a rare smooth travel up to the isles. The set contained a mixture of Lewis swapping the acoustic guitar with electric – the latter resulting in swampy rural American sounding songs, such as the brilliant Devil In The Detail and Rubble – a song about the duo’s respective homes, Mississippi and Wales.

The set ended with Heart Don’t Want. It was a great return for the pair and it’s pretty safe to say this won’t be their last visit to the island.

Ending the night was Ross Wilson, otherwise known as Blue Rose Code. Usually a solo act, for this gig he brought a backing band launching with Acquainted With The Night.

It is a song that with a full band behind it is one of the most progressive folk (if you could even call it that) tracks you will have heard in a long time. An incredible song, and also a bold choice to open the set with.

Wilson is no stranger to the isles. His new album ….And Lo! The Bird Is On The Wing was written mostly during a month-long retreat in Cullswick. This gig was part of his tour promoting the album.

“The best bit of press I’ve received so far for this is tour is that I sound like a mix of Marvin Gaye and The Proclaimers,” he said. Joking aside, the description is apt.

Wilson’s voice at times channels the late great Gaye, especially in his performance of Glasgow Rain.

It’s hard to pinpoint what kind of sound Blue Rose Code do. At times progressive, at times happy, but mostly sad, Wilson has amassed a catalogue of unique songs with poetry at its essence.

He ended the set by bringing on an array of musicians, featuring Lewis and Leigh, and “world Fladderbister guitar champion” Arthur Nicholson to sing as part of his backing choir for Julie and the heartwarming Grateful – a song about overcoming his own personal troubles.

He dedicated it to Shetland on this night. Judging by the applause at the end of the song, it was actually the crowd who were grateful.

Jamie Hatch


Add Your Comment
  • Fern DaSilva

    • April 16th, 2016 2:54

    Welcome back, BRC, Please come back REALLY soon – what an amazing set!!!


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