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Music Review: RM Hubbert – First & Last

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Now this is quite remarkable. And that is not something that happens every day in my musical world. But for once, it's an appropriate word, as First & Last, the debut album from Glasgow based RM Hubbert most definitely qualifies as a work of art. At least, in it's initial, excruciatingly limited edition, craftsman created format, it does.

Mr Hubbert has been playing his guitar for quite some time now, having done his time on the coalface of the Glasgow DIY scene of the nineties, especially on the albums released by El Hombre Trajeado, which saw them getting three sessions on John Peels Radio 1 show, as well as playing concerts alongside the likes of Sebadoh, Tortoise, Nick Cave and Mike Watt, amongst others.

But once all the indie shenanigans were over and done with, Mr Hubbert began to actually study the guitar, rather than just strumming it, taking in flamenco, samba and taiko, as he explored the possibilities of his playing. All of which lead him down the road of solo guitar compositions and to this album. In its initial format, First & Last has been released as a specially produced and hand bound hardback art book (made from recycled bottles). It's limited in this form to 105 copies, and also features contributions from artists Toby Paterson, Luke Fowler, Danny Saunders and Sarah Lowndes, as well as musical collaborators including Jer Reid and Howie Reeve.

As well as Mr Hubberts notes on what defined the writing of his music, the inclusion of sketches and poems from his artistic collaborators form part of his inspiration, as he works his way through his series of instrumental guitar pieces. Now when it comes to the technical side of classical and flamenco guitar, I know nothing. But I do know a lot about emotion, depression, sudden death, and the daily struggle of simply living. Of all of which informs this work.

With that in mind, and a good set of headphones, the depth and range of emotion involved can be quite raw and cutting. I'm still finding it hard to listen to "Jumphang" all the way through, as I find it just too harrowing. Fortunately, it's not all doom and gloom, as the musical love letters to his wife attest. And there is more joy to be found in the likes of "Hey There Mr. Bone" and "Temple Circa 89". It's a remarkable achievement and something that more people should strive for, in an increasingly banal musical world.

The creativity doesn't stop with the music and art either, as both the (non-limited) CDs and downloads will be available on a pay what you like basis, with the music being released under a Creative Commons license, which allows for remixes and reworking of the music as well as further sharing of it for non-commercial purposes. And if that weren't enough, you can get Mr Hubbert to perform for you under his “will play for food” scheme, where he will come round your house to play his music.

You can find out more (and you certainly should) at his website rmhubbert.com

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About Stuart A Hamilton