Former El Hombre Trajeado guitarist RM Hubbert's 'Ampersand Trilogy' of solo albums have really established him as a formidable solo guitarist with a flamenco-inspired but still very Scottish sound. The collaboration-heavy 'Thirteen Lost and Found' even netted him the Scottish Album of the Year award. Those who are sad that the trilogy is finished will be delighted to see that here we have the fourth Ampersand album, mopping up the deleted scenes and Easter eggs that didn't fit on the albums but were too good not to release.
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Unintentionally, I have almost made it my career to ignore RM Hubbert. Not any more. A chance visit to watch James Yorkston last night has reignited my love of Scottish twiddle folk and so perfectly on cue is Mr Hubbert with an album of rarities, B sides and unreleased tracks. He recently won Scottish Personality of the Year (or something like that) and has been produced by the one from Franz Ferdinand so he doesn’t exactly labour in obscurity but a cursory listen to this reveals a musician who should possibly be noted by a few more people.
I guess if you are going to start looking for the roots of all this you are going to have to go back to John Fahey but having been in a post rock group (El Hombre Trajeado) he knows all about dynamics. There are a lot of highlights here but one in particular. ‘Elliott’ is a glorious piece, beginning with simple picked guitar and a kind of hammered out plucking the track flowers into the most glorious thing with waves of crystalline downward descending guitar figures. Utterly mesmerising. Tracks like the opening ‘PB’ are tangles of exquisite acoustic guitar playing with a kind of delicate but agricultural style.
Being a compilation there is the odd experiment that doesn’t quite hit the mark - the spoken word ‘Song for Jenny’ or the millionth cover of Daniel Johnston’s ‘True Love Will Find You in the End’ but it’s the solo guitar pieces that are whetting my whistle and luckily there are plenty of them. The delicious ‘Sticky Pine’ out plucks Sun Kil Moon’s ‘Admiral Fell Promises’ and that is saying something.
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- The Ampersand Extras by RM Hubbert
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