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"Around This Town" by Ross Darby

Review

Today is the release day for the new Ross Darby single "Around This Town", his first since the much applauded "Rose" which came out in July 2020 and recorded with Matt Waddell at 14 Records.

The song packs so much in that I checked the running time and it's less than three & a half minutes: it sounds and feels much longer, not least I suspect due to the overall urgency in its feeling & performance, driven by an unusually skittish & skifflish snare and a vocal which borders on the anxious.

Balancing this impression is Ross' characteristic ability to deliver a romantic melodicism which certainly on this occasion also tends towards the melancholic, and which serves in combination to put across what I imagine most of its listeners will recognise & share: social & personal anxiety, sadness over current circumstances & any optimism going forward textured with the experiences of recent months: a complex emotional story, but one Ross tells really effectively. There is even a decent element of tongue in cheek humour in how he describes the vanished lifestyle of hitting the town.

It takes experience & a subtle talent to express so much in a seemingly simple & direct, not to say memorable,  track, but Ross pulls it off effortlessly & given that it captures the emotional essence of our times without going into any lyrical specifics, it should last the test of time: topical for today, yet timeless for the days ahead.

Ross tells me that he is looking forward to playing around these towns during the summer and has been working with Matt at 14 Records on more songs for release soon, including a never previously released Fallows track….. so join me please in watching this space…

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"Rose" by Ross Darby

Review

When I reported mere days ago that one of the artists who had recently been recording at 14 Records with Matt Waddell was Ross Darby, I certainly looked forwards to hearing the fruits of those sessions.

What I didn't quite expect was to be reviewing one of them quite so soon, though I'm delighted to be doing so as I can't get his new single "Rose" out of my head (though repeated plays probably helped that state of affairs).

To be released on the final day of this month, "Rose" is a remarkable track. In purely its own right, it demonstrates how rich the talent currently around us continues to be. Even up against some of the other marvellous tracks I've already reviewed in 2020 it stands up as one of the finest. Without all these wonderful songs I can assure you'd I'd not be inspired to write for "Hot Music Live" nor compile "Hot Music Live Presents" (indeed the latter would simply not be possible).

However to create this at a time when recording has been most difficult & minds turned to many other things, especially when like Ross you have been heavily committed  on the medical frontline yourself, verges on the astounding. And the outstanding. Moreover to write something this emotionally uplifting within such a context when you'd be forgiven for tending towards the introspective is something else again.

Because "Rose" is just that: a real tonic for the troops.  No doubt that's entirely his purpose, to lift us when we need it & I thank him for that as it does that for me. Written between shifts sweltering in full PPE in operating theatres, the song in no way reflects the angst its composer must have been going through.

Based upon a simple acoustic riff which worms its way straight into your mind, it sounds utterly timeless to me: in fact I remarked to Ross straight away that it reminded me of the sort of traditional tunes we used to hear played on pianos in school: think Percy Grainger & his "English Country Gardens".

A story as old as time (he assures me that it's not autobiographical nor from his family) which fits the melody like a glove, telling of love, race tracks, elopement, steam trains, flowers in a young girl's hair (the girl's name is a nice echo) & Gretna Green looked back on from old age after loss. Sweet & bittersweet at turns it could have been written any time in the last century or more.

The icing & cherries on the cake are the utterly tasteful interludes of violin (by fellow Fallow Neil Pointon) which mesh beautifully with the guitar & voice & add to the overall feel, which is enhanced by perfect production. I think you'll like the song as much as I do & it certainly seems well fitted for radio playlists.

 

It's been a couple of years since Ross' ‘Down the Rabbit Holes' EP which was reviewed in the magazine, so it's great to hear new material from him: to have something this great under the circumstances & when we need it is even better. I also understand that he has more material ready to record so we can look forwards to more releases before too long.

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Ross Darby live at the Magic Lantern

Review

I am a big fan of the performing & writing of Ross Darby so it was a big pleasure to get another chance to review him for this magazine on the occasion of his Magic Lantern gig. Unfortunately I didn't get to review him in his Fallows days (I hadn't then started writing for "Hot Music Live") & in fact haven't been able to since I wrote about his current EP ‘Down the Rabbit Holes' (last March). As Ross himself says, life has got in the way of recording & playing (my congratulations by the way on his very recent marriage to Alana: what a valid distraction from other activities) but his comments at the end of this performance suggested that it & the really great audience response have encouraged him to write & play more.

And rightly so. His playing was, in my opinion, even better than ever. A confident & adept guitarist, his singing has matured over the years I've been listening to him & what was excellent to begin with is now even better. That's not merely in technique (he himself noted how as the evening progressed & his voice responded to the atmosphere his range increased too: falsettos were deployed towards the end) but also in the range of voicings which simply enhanced the beauty of the material.

And what material: this is a writer with no need to rest upon his Fallows laurels (he didn't) and anyone capable of writing songs as superb as "Follow You" (a personal favourite) or "Beautiful & Strange" is one of the area's  (slightly hidden) gems: I really would like his material to be shared with a wider audience. That four of the songs were new is indicative too of a new impetus to his career.

What is also remarkable relates to his command of the audience. Very unusually for the venue, a few of them were rather un-Magic Lantern like during the set of support act Dave K: talking loudly & even calling out. He isn't as experienced as Ross unfortunately and by trying to drown them or respond, didn't get the reaction he & his original material deserved. Ross however had the same crowd & held them in the palm of his hand with the simple performing of superb material calmly & confidently so even very quiet passages were treated with due respect. There is a certain aura or charisma around the best artists & Ross has it in spades. They loved him. So did I. So will you. Check him out. He's back at the same venue on March 14th but do keep an eye on his page as I hope he'll be playing elsewhere in the meantime.

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"Down the Rabbit Holes" EP by Ross Darby

Review

It is a real privilege & pleasure to be able to review the new EP by Ross Darby entitled "Down the Rabbit Holes" which will be released on Friday 30th March.

Ross is already well known by many local (and national) music lovers for his membership of the Fallows & since that critically & popularly acclaimed band split, has been gaining equal respect for his solo performances.

I have seen several of these & had the fortune to hear some of these songs in development: they sounded good then & with extended arrangements plus a sympathetic production which emphasises the intimate intensity of Ross' delivery, they sound even finer on the EP.

Produced by Matt Waddell at 14 Records (Matt also plays bass, guitar & keyboards plus backing vocals), the EP also features Ciaran Corkerry on drums, Ryan Every on lap steel  and Gemma Leahy  on backing vocals on the title track.

These are very emotionally adult themed songs and the arrangements complement the lyrics effectively. As noted, they started life with Ross accompanying himself on his guitar & extra elements have clearly been added to bring out certain facets of them & where this hasn't been necessary, the space has been retained.

First up is the title track itself, with a sparse & haunting opening  which showcases Ross' hypnotic & ringing guitar before building into a fuller arrangement which nevertheless still leaves his vocal as the predominant feature, rightly so as this is a keening & melancholic piece, tinged with regret. If the listener is expecting some sort of Lewis Carroll fantasy from the title, what they actually get is something much more sombre & rooted in reality.

 

"Follow You" jangles warmly and gently with another beautiful melody outlining a very adult set of experiences & thoughts which appealed to me greatly from the first hearing. I was actually tempted while listening to it to nominate it as my favourite on the EP, but then I replayed it & realised that all four could fit that bill: they are quite different & appeal to me in different ways. Thankfully, as I hate ranking songs anyway & feel under no obligation to do so. I imagine each listener will respond in her or his way & if they have a "favourite" then that is their prerogative.

"Sitting Duck" is a gorgeous track with a fuller arrangement from the start yet adroit use of drop out creates internal variations in tone & dynamics along the lines of the first song & again provides strong evidence of how the arrangements are devised to serve the emotional core of the song & communicate it to the listener.

 

"The Road" sits a little apart from the other three tracks, given that it is described as a "bonus track", possibly because it features so many excellent guest performers: to wit Miss Ellie & local Americana stars the Folly Brothers (Jonny Roden, Mark Roden, Wes Stanton & Ben Lambert). This results naturally in a very differently sounding piece with banjo & fiddle (by  the late Mick Shalar) offering intriguing extra textures which help bring out the subtleties of the melodies & layered harmonies add further dynamics to the vocals. The use of male & female lead vocals (the latter from Miss Ellie) is also an effective idea & frankly the whole track is so authentic that the listener could assume it to be by an American bluegrass combo.

 

I for one am greatly looking forward to the launch night for this gem of a release which is on Friday 30th March at Leamington's Town House in George Street, when Ross will be joined by artists of the calibre of Danny Ansell & the Folly Brothers: and it's free entry too.

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Ross Darby news

News

A whole lot of great news just in from Ross Darby I'd like to share with you.

 

He is releasing his solo EP (via 14 Records) on 30th March, with a launch gig that night at the Town House in Leamington

 

However, you can catch him prior to that on February 26th in Coventry at The Tin, when he'll be supporting "Into the Ark" who have appeared on ‘The Voice' (Joe Dolman will also be on the bill)

 

You may also have heard a new track Ross wrote called "The Road" played by Brody Swain on BBC Coventry & Warwickshire Introducing (17th February 2018) which features both the Folly Brothers (a band not unknown at the Town House) and Ellie Davies.

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