RM Hubbert is a Scottish singer-songwriter making music in that fine tradition: morose but funny, tough but beautiful. On Telling The Trees he collaborates with a wide array of vocalists, including Rachel Grimes, Kathryn Williams and Martha Ffion. Without Hubbert’s gruff voice, his music is an intriguingly different proposition. On Chemikal Underground.
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"Whispering grass, don't tell the trees ‘cause the trees don't need to know” so sang the Ink Spots and later on my grandad back when I thought ‘blabbering’ was a swear word.
Scottish guitarist extraordinaire RM Hubbert is telling the trees. On this latest release he has done something completely different. He has invited 11 female vocals to sing over his delightful guitar compositions. It gives his music a completely different feel, my initial impressions are that, to be horribly honest, I’d like to just hear the original compositions perhaps with Hubbert singing and it's one that my the end of the record I'm sort of sticking to but it's been a nice ride trying to work it all out.
It’s not that the vocals ruin the tracks - they just lessen Hubbert’s playing. Opener ’The Dinosaur Where We Fell In Love’ is a lovely finger picked guitar piece with spoken word vocals. Never a fan of spoken word, me. The Scottish Bjork Anneke Kampman does a Bjork-ish job on the electronic-y ’Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror’. Rachel Grimes (Rachels) doesn’t sing but adds delightful piano to the luscious guitar of ‘In Accordia’. ’Sweet Dreams’ with Marnie is an electronic opus that sounds rather like the ‘80s pop peddled by the likes of Field Harmonics. Though all the vocalists are supremely talented there is a sameyness to those tracks that don’t go out on a limb like the folky 'Kas' where Aby Vulliamy's fiddle creates a rustic traditional feel. True ’The Unravelling’ with Martha Ffion benefits from Hubberts lovely rolling guitar notes but on tracks such as ‘Probably Will/Probably Do’ the impression is of a talented guitarist playing on someone else’s album. I was fascinated to hear the Eleanor Freidburger track ‘Chelsea Midnight’ - now there’s a distinctive voice - and it is indeed probably one of the highlights of the record.
It’s an interesting idea this - I’m not convinced it works - it just left me aching to just hear Hubbert on his own. However, I'm not going to beat the man to death for trying something different.
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