Ricky Ross - Pale Rider

Best known as the frontman and heartthrob of successful Scottish band Deacon Blue, Ricky Ross has carved out a niche for himself as a solo artiste in his own right with "Pale Rider" being his fourth album. He's still an active live performer though and with Deacon Blue he played the Tsunami Benefit at the Glasgow SECC amongst Travis and Franz Ferdinand.

The contrast between his famous chart topping band and the music he plays solo is unmistakable. Free from the constraints of a major label and able to express himself with artistic integrity and freedom, Ross has gone back to his acoustic roots. "She Gets Me Inside" was covered by Ronan Keating on his last solo album. This though is the Ricky Ross original. It benefits from an organic, natural feel and a simple arrangement. Ross's smoky voice is perfectly suited to this folky, stripped down sound. It's akin to a less deep and insightful Damien Rice, not quite as mournful but with traces of sadness. The song's about how the love of a good woman can change and enrich someone's life. The sentiments may be expressed simply, but that's no bad thing for the art of songwriting as best illustrated by John Lennon's "Imagine". The moment you hear Ross sing "sometimes love can make you feel good, sometimes love can do what nothing should" you sense the yearning in his voice.

"Soundtrack To The Summer" has superb mandolin playing by multi-instrumentalist and producer of the album David Scott. It could quite easily be a quality track off any Del Amitri album. The harmonies and optimistic feel are in the vein of the Beatles and especially The Beach Boys. "Calvary" has the pacing of Aztec Camera and is wistful, romantic and warms the cockles of your heart. It has a real sense of community and belonging lyrically which is refreshing when so many songwriters nowadays focus on the cynical aspect of civilization. Ross sounds so captivating on this track. "History" is the most sparse recording on the album. Using the simplest of tools, acoustic guitar and the quiet subtle use of piano this song would be ideally played beside a small group of friends around a campfire. It's so intimate and personal about the breakdown  in communications of a love that has now become history.

"Pale Rider" should be played when you're at your most relaxed as it's soothing, congenial and a real grower after a few listens. Whether it be as a member of Deacon Blue or on his own, Ricky Ross is always worth hearing.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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