interesting music promotions and Vocoustics present No More Soundchecks – the latest in a series of unplugged shows featuring…
RICK REDBEARD + STEVEN MILNE
Friday 15 March 2013
Advance Tickets £6+bf / £8 on door
With an act as stylistically restive as The Phantom Band, you’d expect at least some of their number to harbour a renegade alter-ego or two. In the case of their vocalist-in-chief Rick Anthony, his ‘Rick Redbeard’ doppelgänger has been hiding in plain sight since The Phantom Band’s critically feted debut in 2009, with some material on ‘No Selfish Heart’ pre-dating ‘Checkmate Savage’ by as much as five years. Originally conceived as an outlet for Anthony’s quieter, more introspective material, it’s fair to say that Redbeard’s ‘songbook’ has outgrown its brief, developing into much, much more than a dead letter office for The Phantom Band.
Eight years in the making, ‘No Selfish Heart’ is a warming, darkly poignant collection that navigates universal themes of love, place and the passage of time. Rick elaborates: “It’s my attempt to harness that sense of yearning for something you’ve never had or can never hope to recapture. The nostalgia for when I was a child – growing up in the countryside – has never left me, it’s a constant melancholy for something I can’t even name anymore.”
Eschewing recording studios’ technological toolboxes in favour of his parents’ house in rural Aberdeenshire and the flat he calls home in the west end of Glasgow, the intimate, homely feel to ‘No Selfish Heart’ has been arrived at by clear design rather than happy accident. With the album’s backing vocals provided by Rick’s sister Jo, its fireside intimacy is enhanced further by the retention of creaking piano stools and the preference of character over technical perfection when laying down vocal and guitar takes. Rick again: “I’ve always been attracted to comforting music; for me, Leonard Cohen’s music is never depressing, it’s soothing. I want people to hear my songs in the same way I’ve heard certain music over the years: like kind words from an old friend.”
If Mr Cohen and his cohorts Young, Springsteen, Waits, Cave etc. have had an inevitable impact on the DNA of ‘No Selfish Heart’, a deeper delve into its less hallowed influences reveals even more of its emotional heart. A song-writing mother, constantly singing and leaving guitars around the house for young, curious hands to explore; a nature-loving, scientist father whose hermetic tendencies would cultivate an appreciation for stillness and remote, open spaces; the rousing folk tales of Dundonian troubadour Jim Reid contrasted with the torch songs of Julee Cruise; Cormac McCarthy’s southern gothic alongside the dystopic fantasies of Alasdair Gray: all have informed the artist and the album in some way, shape or form.
In contrast with the warmth of the storytelling is the album’s monochrome artwork: a scene of stark, autumnal woodland provides a nod to the album’s other, more bucolic, themes of nature, solitude and the changing of the seasons. Shaped as much by the elements raging outside his window as the albums rotating on his turntable, Rick Redbeard’s debut is the stuff of log fires and graveyards; your breath on the winter air and the frost underneath your feet; love and lust, heartbreak and loss. Encompassing the natural (Old Blue) and the supernatural (Cold As Clay (The Grave)), the temporal (Clocks) and the traditional (Kelvin Grove), ‘No Selfish Heart’ tackles them all with humour, beauty and pathos.
If the macabre and the melancholy have often been the cornerstones of the best folk albums, ‘No Selfish Heart’ upholds that tradition beautifully. As the aching shruti-box lament of ‘Clocks’ fades in at the album’s opening, the companionship of a roaring fire, a whisky and the love of your life could not come more highly recommended.
A lynchpin in Aberdeen’s music scene, Steven Milne wears many hats; musician, promoter, DJ, booker, you name it. Hardest working man in showbusiness. Best-known as lead singer in respected Scottish indie-pop band The Little Kicks, he’s now branching out with some more mind-blowingly good solo material including the 2010 album Chasing Phantoms (how appropriate for this show!) released on Bedford Records which is a shimmering slice of pop/folk goodness, full of the kind of gems which are making ears twitch around Scotland and far, far beyond…