How do you follow an album such as Water Of Leith, a composition with a majestic sweep in its expansive contemplations on life and love and homeland? For Ross Wilson, the answer seems to be to condense it somewhat. On Healings Of The Deepest Kind, Wilson continues to offer songs soaked in Celtic mists with burbling double bass, hypnotic strings and jazz tinged horns along with the occasional upbeat and more playful number as he journeys through his trials, tribulations and joy. Compared to Water Of Leith, the songs are more compact and personal, as befits an artist who isn’t afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve as the recording of the album followed yet another tumultuous period in his life. There are few musicians these days who are as nakedly forward in their inner thoughts as Wilson, a man who seems to forever teeter on the edge but who thrives on his artistic muse and the love and comfort of friends. This transparency allows a degree of intimacy with his followers and adds a powerful punch to his recordings. Delightful as the songs may be to a casual listener, there’s a sense of communion within his community, the ebbs and flows of his life recharged by their love and appreciation.
The 45 minutes or so of this album sweep by wonderfully, a balm for the senses, a comfort blanket for the soul, indeed, a healing of sorts. Wilson retains his affinity with the likes of Van Morrison and John Martyn as the songs waft wonderfully with the grace and beauty of those chaps in their prime. Morrison springs to mind especially with the reference to healings in the album title, a word that Morrison has used on several occasions alluding to the power of music. It’s also a word often associated with the late Jackie Leven, another touchstone for Wilson, but here the source appears to be the philosophy of Pádraig Ó Tuama, an Irish poet, theologian and conflict mediator, a man who believes in the healing power of words.
The album opens (or dawns) with the band playing an impressionistic mix of strings and horns which recalls both Debussy and Miles Davis, over which Ó Tuama, reads his poem, What I Need To Hear, the last line of which is the album title. As the poem ends there’s a gentle percussive thump shifting the band into the beautiful tones of You’re Here And Then You’re Gone. This percussive heartbeat runs throughout the song like a human metronome grounding the waxing and wanings of the strings, muted trumpet and e-bowed guitar which adorn Wilson’s wonderfully wearied voice as he sings of friendship and relations and the need to grasp them due to the impermanence of life. It’s really quite a breathtaking introduction to an album which will return to this mood but not before a couple of songs which have more of a hop, skip and jump to them.
Love A Little is such a spritely number it’s hard not to break into a smile when listening to it. While there’s light and shade in the words it’s a joy to hear and Emily Kelly (of The Jellyman’s Daughter) sparkles on harmony vocals. LDN City Lights is more rambunctious with a touch of country rock in its bones as guitarist Lyle Watt twangs away and the fiddles skirl. Bloom meanwhile is a perfect example of Wilson’s ability to embrace life and love even in darker moments and transform his thoughts into song.
The elemental sounds which introduce The Wild Atlantic Way prepare you for one of Wilson’s epic voyages around his soul. Here all points converge as he slopes into a peaceful late night jazz ambience conjuring up the romance of the sea with a siren call to Ireland combined with the wonder and mystery of a newborn child. There’s a turbulent sax solo indicating rocky waters before the calm at the end of the song with Wilson crooning his love. The following Starlit, with Lyle Watt’s lyrical guitar shapes recalling John Martyn, blossoms as the strings and horns swell with Wilson in a cyclical and most poetic mood. Again, the impermanence of life (“We all have come from starlight, we all return to starlight”) reiterates the need to live in the moment and open up your heart. You might be hurt but at least you’ve savoured a moment.
Red Kites is, simply put, a fantastic slice of yearning Caledonia soul with that word, healing, appearing yet again. Soaring like the titular birds, the song and performance glides, dives, and ducks with an impressive agility. The album closes with the delicately balanced Riverstown, its stately string arrangement enlivened by a sweet saxophone solo as Wilson waxes as eloquently as Laurie Lee did in Cider With Rosie.
As expected, Ross Wilson and his current Blue Rose Code comrades, have another gem on their hands. With Healings Of The Deepest Kind is made to savour and to wallow in. It’s an album touched with genius, toiled with experience and, ultimately, suffused with healing.