Gigs · Music

Blue Rose Code – Live at St Pancras Old Church, London 2014


Blue Rose Code - Live at St Pancras Old Church

This is a 9-track live CD by the excellent Blue Rose Code available from their website and Coda Music in Edinburgh.

Blue Rose Code is Ross Wilson, sometimes with others, sometimes not. He seems to have come out of nowhere for me; I first saw his picture on Coda’s website, posing with a copy of Songs in the Key of Life in his hand, so I realised there was something good going on.

He may have a back story, but it’s close to his chest. He is not a young man, but I’m not aware of him having been around the Edinburgh music scene forever. What I can piece together from the songs and from comments made at shows is that he is from Edinburgh, had “issues,” went to London, got better, then came back to Edinburgh. Edinburgh certainly means a lot to him and crops up either explicitly or by allusion in the work. His beautiful Edina (Robert Fergusson’s poetic name for Edinburgh,) opens with this stunning couplet, before asking “Would you forgive me? What do you say Edina?”

I often think about the nights,

the times before I learnt that all my days’ve got a number…

I first saw him opening for Ethan Johns last year, just him and a female co-vocalist, it piqued my interest and I got his second album “The Ballads of Peckham Rye,” (noting the Muriel Spark, so obliquely Edinburgh, reference) and loved it. Saw him with a band at one of three sold out shows at The Edinburgh Fringe last year, then again with a better band toward the end of the year when I got his first album North Ten, which I also enjoyed.

And now we have this live recording, which in many ways consolidates where he has got to with his work – songs from each of the albums are given unique new readings, harnessing the talents of the (unaccredited) musicians with whom he was playing that night…it’s all grand stuff, although I would have lived without the thing that sounds like an Omnichord…

Blue Rose Code are appearing at The Voodoo Rooms on Sunday 26 April and I look forward to the next chapter.

Gigs · Music

Ethan Johns in Edinburgh


Ethan Johns in Edinburgh

Ethan Johns, producer of Laura Marling and co-producer of The Staves played in Edinburgh tonight. Great set, some great sounding songs from his new album The Reckoning, including a song called “The Roses and the Dead.” Maybe I wasn’t the only fan of The Dead in the room tonight…

Producer Ethan Johns with Stuart Ferguson

The man’s uncle produced Marquee Moon…this case is closed.

Gigs · Music

The Staves in Edinburgh…

The Staves Edinburgh - I wander I roam

The Staves are coming to The Queens’s Hall on Wednesday, toward the end of another lengthy tour for them.

I’m quite intrigued by the prospect, having spent a lot of my listening time over the last couple of months with their Dead & Born & Grown album, the original cover of which is shown below.  It reminds me of The Millenium’s Begin sleeve, but I love the font and I’ve enjoyed albums for worse reasons than the font on the sleeve…




staves millenium begin

But seriously, I’m pretty excited by this.  I was first attracted to The Staves because of Ethan Johns’ involvement with this album – Johns, of course is Laura Marling’s producer and co-toiler in the garden of greatness (she would be as great without him, but it might not be as obvious,) and has also got a pretty good solo album, If Not Now Then When?

Ethan is the son of Glyn and the nephew of the late Andy (who produced Marquee Moon!) and he and his dad had allegedly (according to Atlantic records’ website) both shown an interest in The Staves; so, happily, they share most (although not all) of the mixing and production credits on D&B&G.  Ethan plays a few instruments too and contributes the great “live” vibe that he adds to Marling’s records – fingers whistling on guitar strings, stuff falling over…

So, with that pedigree of producer and given that posh birds with acoustic guitars seems to be where I’m at a lot of the time now, I got the “Special Edition” of D&B&G (we fall for it every time) which includes a live five track CD, which adds nothing, apart from maybe allowing a picture to be added to the front of the CD showing Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor (probably not from the rough end of Watford) in full on CSN supplication. That’s it below…


staves edinburgh live



CSN Carry On Crosby Stills Nash

Now, obviously, there’s only one CSN, but delightfully, there’s only one The Staves.  Maybe it’s the sibling thing, but the vocal blend they have is unique and striking, as on this YouTube clip below – I’ve been struggling to think what sort of post-production could have been going on to beef up the voices on this, but I ultimately don’t doubt that what we hear in this room is how they sound.  Anyway, I’ll find out in a couple of days.

As for the D&B&G album, I wouldn’t be without it now.  It took a couple of listens, but now I’m a big fan.  It reminds me more of the first America album than CSN, but that’s not a bad thing.  Some parts are better than others, but I love “The Motherlode” and especially “Snow.”  This is partly due to the presence (and appropriate silences) on bass of Pat Donaldson.  He played on the canonical Richard and Linda Thompson records, with the McGarrigles and was also the only member of Fotheringay never to have been in Fairport Convention, which is surely the answer to a pub quiz question in some awful circle of hell.  Also, apparently, a neighbour of Glyn Johns now.  And originally from Edinburgh.

Pat Donaldson really does take The Staves to another place.

Anyway, out of all that, I’ve convinced myself that The Staves at The Queen’s Hall will be the best thing ever…


Staves in car


Even better than expected…

Laura Marling always in the kitchen at parties


So after the long wait, Once I Was an Eagle was available this week.  I know I could have listened to it streaming on The Guardian website last week, but I’d rather scarf up the few remaining “event” releases that the old model of the music industry can cough up, as well listening in the correct spirit and frame of mind.

Having listened two or three times since Monday, early impressions are that Laura Marling has followed her muse resolutely; this is a deep and wide album which will doubtless leave some of the fanbase behind.  It is a bigger leap than even I expected.

N’mind; she can probably do no other than that which her heart and sensibilities demand.  Nor should an artist as resolute (that word again) on the path she has chosen.

So what does it sound like?  Mostly like I imagine the rumbling of earthquake sounds as the fragile mantle is threatened by the turbulence of what lies beneath.  The mumbles, the weird enunciations, the sympathetic growling of producer Ethan Johns’ ambient noises all contribute to the atmosphere of discomfort LM creates; there’s something on her “my-ind” here, which is almost inarticulable, but has to come out…

There’s months worth of study here; I’m loving it so far.


In 2017 Laura Marling looked back on Once I Was an Eagle, answering questions and playing live in front of a studio audience for the Radio 4 podcast Mastertapes.

Laura Marling Once I was an Eagle - BBC Radio 4 Mastertapes