England’s oppressive summer cracks still on. “I’m glad to be here,” says Roddy, “Not least because it’s a hundred and ten degrees downstairs and it smells of rotten vegetables.”
Unluckily for the young Scottish fella, the temperature in the venue is much the same, and I doubt whether it smells any more fragrant than backstage. Yes, the Bloomsbury Theatre is a lovely intimate venue. No, it doesn’t have air conditioning.
When word got out that Roddy Woomble was taking time out from Idlewild to record a folk album, it wasn’t exactly earth-shattering news. His band had, after all, moved from shambolic punksters to rocking only slightly harder than Coldplay. Roddy’s solo album, so it seemed, would just carry on moving up the mainstream. But Roddy takes his art seriously, and in conjunction with a load of genuine folk folk, he’s made a tender sofly-spoken album that stays in the memory for far longer than it’s relatively short running time.
It feels like Roddy has surrounded himself with friends on this album, whether they be Idlewild pal Rod Jones, or folksters like John McCusker and Andy Cutting. Possibly because of this, it feels far more communal than you would expect of a solo album. It’s coming at the folk idiom from a very different angle to Springsteen earlier this year – instead of the rollicking foot stompers, these are largely introspective songs that conjure up a real feeling of a time and a place. The easiest way into the album is via As Still As I Watch Your Grave, this being the track that sounds most like Idlewild. But From The Drifter To The Drake is perhaps more rewarding, a true half-breed between folk and rock, and unlike anything on his previous albums.
Stopping off at the Bloomsbury in the middle of a short tour, Roddy, accompanied by many of the supporting cast from the album open with a crowd-pleasing acoustic version of You Held The World In Your Arms before diving headlong into the new material. Without the safety net of the band, he’s far more chatty, and its far more involving than any Idlewild gig I’ve seen before. When somebody shouts out for Captain, he asks “Do you really think that would work with a cittern and an accordion?. As my mother used to say ‘You’ll get what you’re given'”
And, despite the oppressive heat, he gets a fine reception, the aforementioned As Still As I Watch Your Grave seeing a response rivalling that of American English at the end of the set. As triumphs go, its a quiet one, but its a triumph none the less.