Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Blue Rose Code - Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Tuesday 4th October 2016

The backbone of this gig ran from ‘Pokesdown Waltz’ to ‘Grateful’, a journey which pretty much epitomises the recent travails of Scottish born, and now re-based, singer-songwriter Ross Wilson. Under the widely known and acclaimed recording name Blue Rose Code, Ross has accrued much praise over the recent past with his sincere prose and acute ability to communicate via the medium of song. The irony of him starting his multi consecutive run of Scottish shows three hundred miles south in the English Midlands was not lost on Ross and a committed turnout at the Kitchen Garden Café in Birmingham had little issue with this geographical diversion.

Those who may not have been au fait with Blue Rose Code prior to this show had a wealth of opportunities to get to know Ross Wilson – the writer, the vocalist and an artist conquering the grail of audience connectivity. Whether it was just sitting back and taking in the ‘Celtic lullabies and Caledonian soul’ or intensely learning how a person grapples with their artistic calling, the two sets on offer this evening had the content to deliver. There was an inherent and marginally impish charm to Ross’s affable persona and he certainly possessed the aura in his stage presence to lure an audience’s attention. The Kitchen’s intimate surroundings provide the conducive atmosphere for the connectivity process to be sealed and few present would argue that this show didn’t deliver.

Prior to Ross easing into the performer’s spotlight, local acoustic duo Ashland took up the opportunity to return to the venue to deliver an enjoyable half hour slot of original material. A bunch of well-crafted songs were delightfully sung by Kathryn Marsh with accomplished guitar accompaniment and occasional harmony vocals from Dave Sutherland. The duo recently released an EP and tracks from this were included such as ‘Blue’ along with a new song, presumed to be in the running for recorded status when the opportunity to hit the studio arrives again. The performance ranked highly when matched up with other local artists selected to support touring acts and they could easily be recommended for other suitable slots.

Ross was also appreciative of Kathryn and Dave’s set, along with the choice of a Van Morrison album to accompany the break, where there were plenty of opportunities to peruse the merchandise table including the latest album release …AND LO! THE BIRD IS ON THE WING. Live offerings from this record included Ross at his most melancholic and contrastingly his most optimistic as referred to in the opening sentence of this piece. Throw in ‘Rebecca’ from this record and you start to get an insight to what drives Ross to write songs. This comes across as responding to inspiration and seeking a therapeutic haven when life doesn’t go to plan. Not an uncommon source of song writing excellence.

When querying a label of Americana, Ross’s response of a home grown stereotype was first class and you were left in no doubt that is one proud Scot, expressively captured in the song ‘Edina’. The Celtic background features strongly in the vocal prowess of Ross communicating in the art of song and fellow Scot Karine Polwart has worked closely with him in the past. Other numbers such as ‘Wester Ross to Nova Scotia’ have their roots north of the border and if those lyrics sound familiar to another duo from Edinburgh, then the link was compounded with a Hibernian sticker adorning a battered old guitar. Not that this trusty old friend didn’t deliver as Ross indicated a more expensive instrument remaining at home in a near redundant state. On the subject of guitar playing, this evening’s display had lofty moments when innovative channels of churning out the sound accompaniment were found.

Although the crux of this show lay within the previously mentioned, and deeply personal, opening and closing tracks, perhaps the key moment of poignancy occurred in the encore which began with a re-working of the poem ‘Acquainted with the Night’. It was strongly perceived that Ross wants his audience to believe in the dream that boundaries don’t exist in the pursuit of art and culture. This was perfectly understood with the notion that Blue Rose Code has realised this for Ross Wilson.

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