RM Hubbert – Telling the Trees (Chemikal Underground)
April 29th 2016
Scottish singer/songwriter RM Hubbert turns the tables on the concept behind his Scottish Album of the Year winner, but still retains its magic.
With his collaborative Scottish Album of the Year winner Thirteen Lost & Found, RM Hubbert, or Hubby as he’s more affectionately known, reconnected with old musician friends, holing themselves “in a room for 6 hours, as we tried to capture our reconnection”. With Telling the Trees, Hubby not only revisits that format, but turns it on its head.
Where Thirteen… saw a deeply personal connection between its collaborators, …Trees, more often than not, never saw them meet – both prior to, and during the recording process. Instead ideas were swapped online, allowing each track to be developed individually from each other. And while such a concept might otherwise lend itself to a less than cohesive end product, the cohesion here lies not between each track and the next, but of the sum of an individual track’s parts.
That said, the dexterous guitars of Hubby himself do provide a fluid and meandering link between cuts, but the personality breathed in to each by the respective collaborator often overshadow any sinewy similarities. The lush, melodious Self-Portrait In A Convex Mirror for instance, is a far cry from the imposing nature of Kathryn Williams collab I Can Hold You Back, while that itself is removed completely from the softer, folkier musings of Yew Tree.
Such is the disparate nature of the tracks that the record itself begs for repeat listens – the subtle nuances of each running impossibly deep at times. The reverse side of that is this isn’t an album to listen to in the background; less Saturday night, more Sunday afternoon. And while the lighter tracks might well recount breezy summer months, there’s enough darkness and bite beneath their surface to remind you that the colder months aren’t ever far away. And though in lesser hands the risk behind the record’s collaborative concept might have been too great – for Hubby it’s proven once again to be the catalyst behind something exceptional.