Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Album Review - RM Hubbert - Thirteen Lost & Found

What a treat for you this week.  Not one, but two album reviews this week.  Check out my review of The Twilight Sad's 'No One Can Ever Know' after you have read my review of RM Hubbert's brand new album 'Thirteen Lost & Found'.

Ever since Hubby was kind enough to come on my radio show (have a listen to that podcast here) I've been enthralled with RM Hubbert's music.  I have to be honest, first album 'First & Last' is not like anything I would normally listen to, and while I enjoyed the finger picking flamenco style of acoustic guitar very much, what won me over more than anything was the raw honesty with which Hubby played and talked about his music.  I found that devoid of lyrics, listening to Hubby allowed a time of reflection and contemplation.

That's something which has in part been retained in opening track 'We Radioed' and third track in 'For Joe', both are the same instrumental style of Hubbert's earlier work.  'For Joe' especially is a track full of emotion.  Starting off with a slow, melodic, almost hypnotic rhythm, midway through the track there's an outpouring of rapturous plucking and strumming, before ending solemnly.

Snuggled in between these tracks is my favourite song on the album, 'Car Song', which features Aidan Moffat.  I think Hubby's guitar playing complements Moffat's gritty lyrics and gruff voice well, the wooden tap of the guitar, the repeated sweeping melody.  The true strength of the track for me is the last verse, a lull in the track, Hubbert's playing kicks back into play with the necessary optimism to soundtrack Moffat's 'breaking free' lyrics.

Next track 'Gus Am Bris An Latha' sees Hubbert joined in guitar duties by John Ferguson, and is instantly familiar as an RM Hubbert track, the intricate finger picking retained and backed up by a fuller sound provided by Ferguson. The last third of the song really kicks of and showcases Hubbert's excellent playing.

The concept behind 'Thirteen Lost & Found' is Hubbert reconnecting with the thirteen people who contribute to the album.  I have avoided the word 'guest' because, these are not a whole heap of guest appearances, rather interwoven to the central theme of the album.  'Sunbeam Melts The Hour' has Marion Kenny and Hanna Tuulikki on it, and it is definitely the most worldly track on the album, mixing the flamenco guitar playing with the ethereal vocals of Tuulikki who is Finnish.  It's a well crafted song, with different little glimmers of beauty seeping through with each listen.

Where as 'First & Last' was a very personal record, 'Thirteen Lost & Found' is much more welcoming and warm.  The deep piano intro on 'Sandwalks' is inviting into a track that crashes and breaks like a the instrumentation of a storm at sea.  Next track 'Half Light' features Emma Pollock, and like Moffat, her voice is complimented exceptionally well by Hubbert's guitar playing, but in a different way, more bassy and deeper.  And that's another strength of this album.  Hubbert works with his collaborators, adapting and complementing what they bring to the table.  His guitar playing is the one constant throughout and he's savvy enough to let the different elements each artist brings fuse with that constant to stop the album becoming a mish mash of tracks.

'Switches Part 2' is another track I adore from this album, partly because Hubbert played it on my show, mentioned above.  It's quite simply stunning and I can't say any more about it for fear of not paying it enough justice.

Album closer is 'The False Bride', which features the folk singing of Alasdair Roberts, again complimented by Hubbert's delicate finger picking.  It's a nice closer, although betrays the upbeat moments on the record, with a tale of tragic woe and lost love.

For those not already acquainted with RM Hubbert, this record offers an excellent opportunity to ease yourself into his work.  'First & Last' won't be for everyone (some people just need vocals apparently).  But the very heart of this LP is still the raw beauty and emotion that is conveyed by Hubbert's music.  Giving that all this stems from Hubbert using music to deal with issues that have affected his life, it reinforces the power of music to communicate.

Buy 'Thirteen Lost & Found' here or from any good music retailer
Check out more from RM Hubbert

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