Ahhhh, the 5th of September 2017, this was the date a CD titled 'The Water of Leith' landed on my doorstep, it was written by a guy called Ross Wilson who goes under the monicker Blue Rose Code and after a couple of plays, I was hooked…..
Imagine my surprise when I saw that he was playing at The Phoenix in Exeter, I just HAD to be there, I sorted out a couple of tickets for me and Rhod (esteemed photographer) to attend and away we went.
Opening up was a local duo called Rainy Day Woman who performed a number of acoustic folk numbers covering a multitude of topics such as feminism and domestic abuse. Hannah Pawson and Gabriel Wynne make up the duo and the set ranged from traditional folk to more upbeat numbers that saw Gabriel finger picking like a demon as Hannah kept the tempo on an even keel. Based in Exmouth, I’m sure that we’ll be seeing much more of these two throughout the summer.
Ross Wilson (aka Blue Rose Code) took to the stage accompanied by Lyle Watt on guitar and Dan Brown on keys. Wilson describes himself as a nomad both geographically and musically and clearly writes from the heart, addressing themes of love, loss, travel and home. His music drifts effortlessly between folk, jazz and soul, an eclecticism that has become something of a hallmark of Blue Rose Code and has seen him compared to the likes of John Martyn, Van Morrison and Tom Waits.
He kept the room entertained with tales of his early days, one that made me smile was when he applied to play at a folk festival hosted in a traditional folk club in Scotland, he went on to say that this was the only time in his life when he received a demo tape back from the booking agent advising that his music was NOT traditional folk!
As a trio, Blur Rose Code really took things to another level, with some incredible guitar solos and keyboard flourishes that delighted and amazed in equal measure. Having heard 'The Water of Leith countless times, I was surprised how well they came across in a live environment, it sounded almost better than the record….
Growing up in Edinburgh, Wilson explained that he wasted a lot of time, waiting for the day when things would be perfect before he moved on with his life and, after a lot of waiting, decided that the day would never come so he just started to make the best of situations and get on with his life.
His set was peppered with multiple twists and turns, a song called ‘Ebb & Flow’ reminded me of Paul Simon , a jaunty keyboard led offering called ‘Grateful’ kicked things up a notch whist an instrumental called ‘Sandy’ shone bright like a star above the venue. Wilson’s vocals were silky smooth and transitioned from an almost breathy whisper to a raucous, primal roar in a nanosecond.
Whilst Wilson now resides in East London, you can thank him for not turning into a hipster and filling our heads full of tales of overpriced pop up croissant kitchens and craft ale joints, instead, he harks back to his days in Scotland and draws upon memories and events that have helped shape him into the person he has now become, thank the lord!
Words by Steve Muscutt
Pictures by Rhodri Cooper
Rather than listing upcoming events that are taking place from April 2019, I’ll ask you to click HERE so you can be magically transported to his ‘Events’ page on Facebook which should always be up to date!