The impish Roddy Woomble has once again cast aside his role as Idlewild frontman, leaving behind all those noisy guitars, life on the road, and screams of ‘Captain’, and setting up camp on a remote Scottish island to get back in touch with his inner folk. The somewhat clumsily titled The Impossible Song and Other Songs is Roddy’s second foray into folk, and the follow-up to 2006’s My Secret Is My Silence. Recorded at an arts centre on the Isle of Mull, it’s certainly got the makings of a folk album with all the trimmings.
The chugging banjo in the opening track ‘A New Day Has Begun’ is very much reminiscent of an opening scene from a play. And as the title suggests, there’s very much a sense of ‘curtain up’ as lyrically Roddy ambles around the themes of new beginnings, awakenings and fresh dawns.
The most striking thing about The Impossible Song and Other Songs is the fuller band sound, moving away from the trad. folk angle and into the realms of country, americana, blues and pop. This is very much a more ‘plugged in’ album, and suggests it’s somewhat exploratory in nature, with Roddy developing his sound further from the unwavering acoustic folk of My Secret is My Silence.
‘Old Town’ employs a distorted, murky guitar, giving a menacing undertone, and a contrast to the jangly, airy sound on much of the album.
Woomble’s distinctive voice tends to see him stick to a fairly narrow vocal range, so it’s nice to hear a bit of variety in ‘Living as You Always Have’. Roddy’s ascent to higher climbs instantly adds a sense of heightened emotion to the track. ‘New Frontier’ shuffles along with soft drums, and some nice scrunchy blues chords under an impassioned ode to a black-haired girl.
‘Gather the Day’ is a stand-out with its cantering chorus. Roddy’s voice is softened by a female counterpart. Hammond organ, lyrics that exude a charming, old-fashioned sentiment, and a catchy hook make this some of Roddy’s best work to date.
The only track on the album that perhaps falls down is ‘Between the Old Moon’, which is just a little too shimmery and saxophone-y, – emphasis on ‘phoney’-, and builds into a bizarre power-ballad. It’s a shame as vocally and lyrically this is a beautiful track, but is ruined by too much generic, meaningless sounds. This being the closing track, it simply seems a case of one too many.
The Impossible Song and Other Songs is perhaps not the album many may have been expecting. And whilst it still has one foot firmly in the folk camp, the other foot is travelling a lot further than the Isle of Mull.