Roddy Woomble branches out, and what a treat it is! Thanks to a Scottish friend of mine living in Armadale Scotland, I've had the opportunity to enjoy the band Idlewild since their 1995 emergence. They are a mix of alternative rock and mad guitar frenzy with teasing touches of sweetness. You could compare them to REM in their more wistful moments, especially REM’s “The One I Love” era. Idlewild’s lead singer, Roddy Woomble, is a huge fan of REM, and his voice often draws the obvious parallels to Michael Stipe.Since the band began however, it has gradually crept backwards to the softer pastoral sound of rock/folk, but apparently not fast enough for lead singer Roddy. He was responsible for the songs that hooked me to their music and now he’s taken that a step further and offered up a solo album of his own. He’s obviously feeling a deep need to delve into his Scottish roots and write about them.His solo album, My Secret Is My Silence, is a delight. The cuts each have something to say, but not in your face; they go directly to your heart. The title cut, “My Secret is My Silence,” is both tender and epic, enormous yet touching, and Woomble's secret may not be his silence, but his ability to write beautiful songs and then pick the perfect people to share the harmonies with.First he invites his wife Ailidh Lennon. Ailidh plays bass and mandolin for Edinburgh band Sons and Daughters. Next he brings Idlewild guitarist Rod Jones aboard, and then Karine Polwart, former lead singer with Scots-Irish quintet Malinky and a one-time member of Battlefield Band. Karine has a plaintive tenure to her voice that lends an interesting combination to Woombles deep and richly melodic bass tones.
Add another female voice, Kate Rusby, a folk singer from Barnsley, South Yorkshire and her husband John McCusker, a Scottish folk singer on violin, and you have the vocals that make up the album. One song in particular, the heart-bursting track "Waverley Steps", sung with Rusby and Polwart, is the real show-stealer, though I do find I have the title track going through my head all day.Where normally I get nervous about musicians leaving the folds of their bands, this time it’s a charm, both for him and for others! Yes, it’s always sad when an artist gets accused of selling out for leaving the security of their band to offer something else, and while many times it marks the beginning of the end for the band, it also marks the beginning of bigger and better things.
Can you tell I like this album?