Album review Scottish albums

Roddy Woomble

It’s amazing to think that seven years have passed since the release of Roddy Woomble’s critically acclaimed debut album, My Secret Is My Silence, but his fondness for folk music continues to blossom in his third solo endeavour.

Listen to Keep is primarily a mellow, acoustic affair, highlighting how far Woomble has come from his raucous rock n’ roll past. The singer’s relationship with songwriting partner Sorren Maclean appears to be stronger than ever in this collection.

Where previous release, The Impossible Song and Other Songs, crossed into unfamiliar boundaries of jazz and country, Listen to Keep is a fuller body of traditional folk music and a better representation of what the former Idlewild singer is capable of producing.

Similarly to The Impossible Song… the stronger selection of songs appear in the first half of Listen to Keep, but that shouldn’t deter the listener, as there are nice touches throughout.

‘Making Myths’ opens the album, building up slowly with quiet drumming accompanied by gentle guitar and a roaming double bass. It’s not long before you are introduced to Woomble’s distinctive vocals which enter with predictable, yet likeable, harmonies, well structured alongside backing vocalist/violinist Seonaid Aitken. The song closes
instrumentally in more up-tempo fashion with a charming slide guitar drawing back to the country elements evident in the album’s predecessor.

‘The Last One of My Kind’ is a particular highlight with striking guitar and violin layers merging together and providing an upbeat feel. The song is lit up by Woomble’s catchy chorus. The lyrics “Do it wrong. Do it right. Do it once. Do it twice” are guaranteed to be
stuck in your head for hours after listening.

The undoubted standout is the album’s title track. Building from the drone of bagpipes, piano and snare drum appear winding vocal and violin harmonies. ‘Listen to Keep’ marks the album’s first real sight of instrumental experimentation and, combined with beautifully
swooping violins, feels like an adventure – a captivating, near five minute masterpiece.

Despite being titled as a solo release, the contribution of Maclean and Aitken, alongside drummer Danny Grant and former Idlewild bassist Gavin Fox gives the album more of a full band feel. This is particularly evident in “Build it to Break” where Aitken and guest singer Sebastian Brice perform the majority of the vocals.

Other highlights include the quirky ‘Travelling Light’ and the country-twist of ‘Trouble Your Door’ with Maclean showcasing the diversity of his guitar-playing skills.

The atmospheric sounding ‘The Universe is On My Side’ and ‘Into the Distance On Luck’ are respectable and both finish powerfully, but their similarities make them feel more like space fillers rather than standouts in their own right.

Overlooking the occasional filler, Listen to Keep is a strong and well produced collection which may not blow you away on first listen, but given time will grow to become an underrated favourite.