A Very ‘Grown Up,’ Articulate and Occasionally Poetic Collection of Songs
It’s difficult to know where to start with Ricky Ross; lead singer and songwriter with Deacon Blue, who were always much more than ‘just a Pop band’ ….. try listening to Raintown, released 35 years ago and it still sounds contemporary and adventurous today in 2022.
He’s had quite a succesful solo career that ran alongside; and in recent years has hosted a very succesful and Award winning Americana radio show on BBC Scotland.
So; what to expect from a solo album called SHORT STORIES Vol.2?
Well; whatever I expected isn’t what we receive.
As with most every other song here, the opening track finds Ross playing the piano while an orchestra swoops in and out as he sounds like his eyes are closed tightly shut while he sings a sad ballad with poetic undertones; The New World.
Perhaps these songs are based around happenings in Ross’s life; but to me they sound truly imaginative and even visionary as he creates mini rock operettas, leaving the listener to interpret accordingly and picture the scenarios in their own heads.
Perhaps All Dressed Up and Your Swaying Arms are literal observations; but there’s also a dreamy landscape in the way Ross describes memories of his childhood and on the latter it could be an unrequited love or a break up in his words ….. everyone who hears it will have their own opinion.
There’s a darkness here that appeals in a way it shouldn’t; but as Gretchen Peters famously sang ‘Sad Songs Make Me Happy’ and there are plenty of these here; that’s for sure.
Even on a song titled I Was The Beatle,s Ross manages to find the heartbreak and melodrama in a childhood romance that never progressed as he was ‘The Beatles and you were the Rolling Stones‘ and “You were living and I was thinking.”
I think we all may have had relationships like that …. some worked, others like this … fell by the wayside but still leave a scar.
You’ve probably worked out that this a deep and indeed, slow album …… beautiful in parts and deliberately cerebral in others; where Ricky Ross may even be challenging the listener to understand his words on Bethlehem’s Gate and The Unpath, which again sounds like a poem set to a delicate musical score.
What with the Beatles/Stones backdrop to another song, I was actually a bit disappointed to find that The Foundations wasn’t a bouncy sing-along like the pop group of that name produced in the 1970’s but actually a very clever tale of a break up; and an unmentioned single by The Foundations is his heartbreaking soundtrack ‘Spinning round/spinning round.’
We’ve all been there ….. some more recently than others I presume.
While there’s not a song here that I will ever feel the need to skip over; there are a couple that really, really appeal to my own sensibilities.
The Unknown Warrior is the starkest song on the album; just Ricky, his piano and a song about young men marching off to WWI if I’m not mistaken through these tears in my eyes.
Still Walking and Spanish Shoes are quite similar in context but entirely different in the way Ross tells these stories of love; with the former being a love a father has for his son and the romantic memories of walks the pair do/did together in the hills and glens of Scotia. The latter is more personal and a damn sight darker as the singer walks through an empty city, with only the moon for company as he walks away from a relationship …. possibly a lover; and if he makes it to the morning …
“If I get out of here
I’m going to wear my Spanish Shoes
To make you feel good
And make me feel good too.”
Obviously life’s not always that simple; but this is a song after all.
The tipping point for this song to be my Favourite is the lines:
“I stepped out and caught a bus
Rode into the city
Thank you driver/have a good day.”
As an ex-bus driver I’m pleased to hear that even in his time of despair Mr Ross can still find the time to be courteous to this much maligned worker.
It’s no surprise that this is a very ‘grown up’ collection of songs; destined to be the ‘go to’ when things get too much to bear and you need to hear someone else who has suffered like you; but can articulate your feelings in song.
Released 5th August 2022
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