Music Preview: Blue Rose Code returns to Sheffield with personal and passionate songs

How to describe Blue Rose Code? Essentially, it’s a formidable and finely-tuned vehicle driven by Scottish singer, songwriter and musician Ross Wilson.
Blue Rose Code (Ross Wilson)Blue Rose Code (Ross Wilson)
Blue Rose Code (Ross Wilson)

With self-declared reference points of John Martyn and Van Morrison, his mix includes bits of folk, Americana, blues and soul – and “the occasional jazz solo and extended musical ruminations”.

Ten years from the debut album North Ten, Wilson’s musical collective, in a series of different formats, from solo to full band, have won a devoted and growing following, not least on home territory.

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Their 2021 album was recorded live before an enthusiastic audience at the annual Celtic Connections in Glasgow (and there was a date supporting Barnsley folk singer Kate Rusby at this year’s festival).

And no doubt Blue Rose Code will have reached many new ears as a result of supporting The Proclaimers on their recent tour of Ireland and Scotland.

They played the Greystones in January 2018, and the latest tour sees them return to Sheffield 11 on Thursday, March 9 when Edinburgh-born Wilson is expected to appear as part of a trio.

Songs are personal, honest and contemplative, performed with passion – sometimes with a hint of spiritual intensity – and surely informed by Wilson’s recovery from his own trials and tribulations.

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The focus is very much on seeking a direct connection with the audience through his own material – heartfelt songs such as Grateful, Edina and Riverstown – although Wilson occasionally takes inspiration from broader traditions.

There’s a tremendously affecting version of Amazing Grace to track down online from a Celtic Connections performance, for example.

Certainly, Ross Wilson has no shortage of musical peers willing to add their voices and instruments to his albums – the likes of Danny Thompson, Karine Polwart, Julie Fowlis and Beth Nielsen Chapman.

High profile fellow Scots also sing his praises.

Ewan McGregor recites some of the lyrics on a track, Glasgow Rain, after the Hollywood superstar’s uncle, fellow actor Dennis Lawson, sent him a copy of Blue Rose Code’s album, The Ballads Of Peckham Rye, which was nominated for Scottish Album of The Year in 2014.

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Meanwhile crime writer Ian Rankin nails the plot: “It’s just great music, beautiful music, music to make you think, and to lose yourself in.”

*Kate Rusby refers to the landmark of her 50th birthday in December when she brings her ‘Established 1973’ Christmas tour to Sheffield City Hall on December 14.

As usual, the band includes producer and husband Damien O’Kane as well as brass quintet The Brass Boys. It’s also a chance to celebrate the tradition of South Yorkshire carols.

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