Ian Roland and the Subtown Set
Charming and Heavenly Contemporary British Folk.
Cast your mind back 5 years to when RMHQ first started and you just might remember that one of our first reviews was Ian Roland’s HOW THAT DUST JUMPS.
I’ve just had another listen and it’s still rather lovely btw.
But, we are ‘all about New Music’ these days and Ian and assorted friends have just recorded an new, bigger sounding and perhaps more ‘mature album’ under the moniker Ian Roland and the Subtown Set (NOT Sect as I first typed!), named after the studio these songs were originally recorded in.
Opening song The Valley is rather divine; as Roland uses his velvety smooth voice plus acoustic guitar, violin and cello to great effect on a pining ‘Contemporary Folk Song’ of the finest order.
This is followed by Butterfly; and as a man of a ‘certain vintage’ I was swept back to my teenage years in the coalfields of NE England where I would dream of a better life somewhere warmer, sunnier and more colourful; and this song made for a perfect soundtrack.
At times here I’ve found it difficult to make my choice of descriptive nouns not sound ‘critical’; but in the best of ways this album is both charming and delightful in equal measures; but never saccharine or twee.
Roland actually tackles some dark and challenging subjects in Human Too and In The Darkness; but the melodious constructions and crystal clear production bring the very best out of his words and make them deceptively ‘easy on the ear’.
This is most definitely in the Folk spectrum; but not the ‘finger in the ear’ ‘how worthy am I’ sphere; Roland writes of the things around him but adds a lovely commercial edge to his songs; with Colour Me In and the show-stopping title track Double Rainbow being well worthy of daytime radio play; and not just on the Interweb. (Where are the brave DJ’s any more?).
There are two songs that you really should take the trouble to hunt out; and because of that they tie for the title RMHQ Favourite Song.
Shooting Star is a delightful Love Song, with Roland’s voice soaring to the stratosphere on the chorus and the gentle combination of guitars and cello creating a warm backdrop
T’other is Songbirds; a more complex melody plus the surprise addition of Brione Jackson stepping up from creating windswept harmonies to juxtapose Roland’s on a verse or two is an absolute Masterstroke.
I’m out of touch with the Folk Scene these days; so don’t know where this ‘band’ will fit in; but if you can put your preconceptions to one side for an hour or two; then this album (and I presume a gig or two) will please everyone who likes a singer-songwriter with a great voice and songs too; then this is for you.