Roddy WoombleCeremony Concerts @ Philharmonic Music Room
It must be a simultaneously liberating and daunting feeling to step away from the supportive atmosphere of working as part of a whole and strike your own chord as an individual performer. So it was for RODDY WOOMBLE in 2006 when he left the comfort zone of Idlewild to record his solo debut album My Secret Is My Silence. Released with an abject lack of anything that could be even remotely described as promotion, the album found its way in the world more despite Woomble than because of him. The intervening 10 years have seen this collection of enigmatic and evocative Scottish folk songs grow in the hearts of its listeners and take its place as one of the most important records of its time, its roots, and its country.
To celebrate the 10-year anniversary, Woomble took to the road to perform the album in its entirety to packed houses up and down the country. And we mean ‘up and down the country’. On his way to Liverpool from the previous night’s show in Norwich, somebody decided to close the M6, meaning a late arrival of the band for us, and a nightmare nine-and-a-half-hour journey for them. Well, we’ve waited 10 years to hear these songs live, another couple of minutes won’t hurt. And obviously, as it turns out, it’s more than worth the wait.
There’s a warm, engaging quality to this collection of songs, as there is too much of his work, and the rich, cracked timbre of Woomble’s voice carries the images across the landscapes he describes. From the prosaic fragile introspection of the opening song I Came In From The Mountain, we’re reminded of his skill in delivering these images, his innate talent for phrasing his doubts and fears into beautiful, lilting passages. These songs speak of community, of self, and of the landscapes that shaped the writer, this resident of the Western Isles.
As a frontman, Roddy Woomble displays a shy but captivating charm, choosing to perform side on, and standing at the side of the stage when not singing, letting the music take the focus. It’s an endearing quality to his performance, and proves the value he places on collaboration and engagement. The band tonight are faultless, as is the sound in The Music Room, with only the addition of Hannah Fisher’s violin to lend the folk edge; it’s a grittier, rockier sound than we’d anticipated.
If I Could Name Any Name is another highlight, a frail and pretty ballad, and another moment where Woomble’s lyrical insight is held up to the much-deserved light, as rich in intent as it is in its delivery. Waverley Steps – written about Woomble finding himself living in Greenwich Village, a dream in itself, but yearning for the Edinburgh skyline and its people – sees him in eyes closed contemplation, honing in on that other time, that place, giving depth to his passion for both places, and the part they’ve played in getting him to this point.
He mentions the lack of fanfare that this album received on its release, and he’s right that it’s by no means polished, it has its flaws, but tonight in The Music Room, Roddy Woomble is relieved that the songs are finally getting the live treatment and the warm welcome they’ve so richly deserved for such a long time.