Album review of Before The Ruin by Drever, McCusker and Woomble.
You have to feel for Britain's roots artists; ignored and/or mocked by the media, frequently they're left playing fusty pub basements while the indie kids upstairs are dislodging the plaster from the ceiling. Fair play to Roddy Woomble then for sidelining his better known (And paid) role with college rock avatars Idlewild to produce his perception shifting solo album My Secret Is My Silence, introducing a culture and heritage to the band's fans that was probably unfamiliar. Clearly it wasn't a one off; now collaborating with Derek McCusker and Kris Drever - already recognised as two of the Scottish folk scene's leading lights - the newly formed trio then rapidly prototyped most of Before The Ruin whilst sitting in McCusker's Edinburgh living room.
The result is something of a quiet triumph. It has to be said that Woomble's form in this area had been less than satisfactory; he was part of Gary Lightbody's eclectic Reindeer Collective, who produced the critically acclaimed but frankly unlistenable Son Of Evil Reindeer in 2002. Whether consciously not however, Before The Ruin is a far subtler balancing act between folk's highly recognisable heritage and twenty-first century songwriting aesthetics. There's plenty of bucolic lyrical references, gently strummed acoustic guitars and dignity, along with the frequent and welcome use of instruments like the cello, fiddle, mouth organ and accordion which in a few years time will be only museum pieces. More contemporarily, here and there lie oblique nods to the Finn Brothers' melodic perfection, especially during Into The Blue and the gently rolling opener 'Silver and Gold'. Elsewhere as on 'Hope To See' and 'The Poorest Company' the sombreness of mood leans towards melancholy without being unnecessarily maudlin. It should be clearly stated that it won't be for everyone - in weaker moments resembling what the guy from Coast probably listens to in his car - but an open mind will be rewarded.
Before The Ruin also boasts blink-and-you-missed-them contributions from amongst others former Teenage Fanclubber's Norman Blake and Francis MacDonald, along with Radiohead's Philip Selway, but you'll struggle to find any bloated supergroup pretensions on display. Then there's the sound itself. Striving to summarise the trio's approach, Orkney-born Drever described it as 'An unusual mix - not quite folk, not quite rock'. Perhaps it's better described in song, as on Rest On The Rock when Woomble sings 'I won't live side by side with the future'. Whether or not either audience is ready to row across to the other shore at the moment remains to be seen.