For R.M. Hubbert, 2013 was the best year of his long musical career. A veteran, and some might say, unsung hero, of Glasgow’s music scene, Hubby won the Scottish Album Of The Year Award in June 2013, with his sophomore album, Thirteen Lost and Found. Considering the competition Hubby was up against, this was quite a feat. Paul Buchanan, Lau, Calvin Harris and Emile Sande were among the nominees. However, Hubby triumphed. Thirteen Lost and Found won the Scottish Album Of The Year Award. This was result of a musical journey that started back in 1991. Having savored the moment, it was straight back to work for Hubby on another album that would be nominated for 2014s Scottish Album Of The Year Award

This was Breaks and Bone. It was the album Hubby was in the midst of recording. This was Hubby’s third album. Breaks and Bone was recorded in seven short, intensive sessions during a one-year period. Featuring  ten tracks, which were produced by Paul Savage at his Chem 19 studios. Two themes run through Breaks and Bone, letting go and acceptance. They’re the threads that ran through Hubby’s first two albums. That’s hardly surprising. Hubby’s had to contend with the loss of both parents and a five year battle with depression. For Hubby and many listeners, Breaks and Bone, will prove a cathartic experience. Before I tell you about Breaks and Bone, I’ll remind you about Hubby’s musical journey.

Unlike many musicians, Hubby didn’t fully embrace Glasgow’s thriving musical scene. Instead, he made tentative steps into its vibrant midst. This was in 1991, when he formed Me, Hubby and Thom with Thom Falls. Thom was also drummer for The Blisters, who featured a young Alex Kapranos. 

Through Thom, Hubby and Alex Kapranos became friends. Soon, they were running a club night and were bandmates. Hubby and Alex took over the running of the long lamented Kazoo Club. It was held at The 13th Note in Glasgow. When the original promoter suddenly left, the very future of the Kazoo Club was at risk. Enter Alex and Hubby. Saving the day, they took over promoting The 13th Note. Further cementing their friendship, Hubby joined The Blisters as second guitarist. This didn’t last long. Hubby left The Blisters in 1992, to join another Glasgow band Glue, Having spent three years as a member of Glue, Hubby joined the band where he made his name.

El Hombre Trajeado were formed in 1995. Consisting of Hubby, Stevie Jones, Ben Jones and Stef Sinclair, El Hombre Trajeado released three albums over the next ten years. Their debut album was Skipafone, released in 1998. Three years later, they released Saccade in 1998. Shlap was their final album. It was released in 2004, the year before the band split. During the ten years El Hombre Trajeado were together, they built a large, loyal following. This resulted in them being chosen to support Nick Cave and The Delgodos.

Following the breakup of El Hombre Trajeado, it was another four years before Hubby released any more music. He was constantly touring, supporting. Franz Ferdinand, The Delgados, Mogwai, Emma Pollock and The Twilight Sad. Then tragedy struck for Hubby when his parents died. This inadvertently lead to Hubby’s live album. 

Trying to rid his mind of the tragedy he’d experienced, he recorded nine solo guitar tracks. They were just a way of taking his mind off what had happened. First and Last featured Hubby playing guitar, using flamenco style and structure. To do this, Hubby had built a custom built Spanish guitar. It was made by Anders Ellasson in South-West Spain. It’s perfect for Hubby’s distinctive flamenco style. 

To give the music a more modern sound, Hubby took a different approach to melody. Once First and Last was finished, Hubby released it himself. Critically acclaimed, this lead to Glasgow’s premier label, Chemikal Underground signing Hubby in 2010. Now he was among his kith and kin, First and Last was reissued in early 2011. With his debut album released, and signed to a new label, Hubby looked to the past for his future.

Hubby had first thought about what became Thirteen Lost and Found back in 2009. Now with friends old and new, Hubby set about bring his idea to fruition. Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand was chosen to produce Thirteen Lost and Found. Indeed, some of the recording took place at his studio in Glasgow. At three studios, ten tracks were recorded with some of Scotland’s top musicians. Aidan Moffat, Emma Pollock, Alex Kapranos, Marion Kenny, Paul Savage, Stevie Jones, Alistair Roberts, Rafe Fitzpatrick, Shane Connolly, John Ferguson and Luke Sutherland all passed through the studio doors playing starring roles in Thirteen Lost and Found, Hubby’s sophomore album. 

Thirteen Lost and Found was released on Chemikal Underground Records in January 2012. Critics were won over by Thirteen Lost and Found. They hailed it as a Magnus Opus of a collaboration, one that was innovative and imaginative. It was all that and more. 

When the long-list for 2012s Scottish Album of The Year Award was released, Thirteen Lost and Found featured on the long-list. The competition was fierce. Some of Scotland’s best artists were in contention for this prestigious award. Among them were Paul Buchanan, Lau, Calvin Harris and Emile Sandy. Then when the long-list became the shortlist, gone were Calvin Harris and Emile Sandy. Hubby was on the shortlist of ten. Then on 20th June 2013, when the winner of the Scottish Album of The Year Award was announced, Hubby had won Scotland’s most prestigious music award. Next for Hubby, was completing the recording of what was the last in a trilogy of albums.

Breaks and Bone was the final album in the Ampersand  trilogy. The threads that run through the three albums are contending with the loss of both of his parents and a five year battle with depression. Hubby had hoped this would help to do this. He says it had, although not to the the extent he’d hoped. The trilogy was an attempt to reach out to friends he’d lost touch with. That’s worked much better.

On Breaks and Bone, Stevie Jones, Aidan Moffat, Emma Pollock, Andrew Savage and Paul Savage all make guest appearances at Chem 19. Producing Breaks and Bone, was Paul Savage. Breaks and Bone was then released on Chemikal Underground on 30th September 2013. Released to critical acclaim, Breaks and Bone which I’ll tell you about sees Hubby build on his first two albums.

Son of Princess, Brother of Rambo opens Breaks and Bone. It’s a mesmeric and spellbinding instrumental you lose yourself in. It washes over you. Thoughts race through your head. You realize what striking a chord means. Memories come back, emotions are stirred. Later, the music becomes a wash, wall or wave of music. Its potency and power, is hugely moving and emotive. It poses questions, that you’re left to answer.

Bolt tells the story of what’s best described as a dysfunctional relationship. This is apparent from the lyric: “he broke your heart, you broke his jaw.” Straight away, you wonder where the song is headed? The lyrics are dark, bleak and nihilistic. Especially when Hubby sings: “I wish you’d break my jaw.” That’s a dark place to be. With buzzing synths, drums and his trademark guitar for company, Hubby’s delivery is almost bereft of emotion. It’s as if he’s hurting inside. Hopefully, by articulating his feelings, this proves therapeutic and cathartic. 

Driving and chiming guitars combine as Couch Crofting, another instrumental, reveals its mystery and ethereal beauty. Here, you’re concentrating on two parts of the song. There’s a sense of time ebbing away, and leading ultimately to loss. This comes courtesy of a buzzing sound. Meanwhile, Hubby like a painter, paints bold brush strokes with his guitar. His playing is confident and brisk. He questions and probes looking for answers. All the time, time is ebbing away, and answers still prove elusive. 

Tongue Tied and Tone Deaf sees Hubby tackle the subject of depression. This is personal for him. He’s suffered from cronic depression for five years. When he sings: “keep your head afloat and wipe your tears…till the next time,” it’s obvious that Hubby is drawing upon experience of the “black dog.” This is personal and his vocal is heartfelt and sincere. There’s a worldweary sound to his voice. Hubby has lived with, and survived depression. His music is cathartic and his story inspirational.

Go Slowly has a melancholy sound as it unfolds. Just a flamenco guitar trails off into the distance. It has a crystalline, ethereal sound. Then Hubby almost punishes his guitar. Power and ethereal beauty sit side-by-side. It’s as if it’s telling the story of loss and grief. Although their death was relief, a relief from pain and suffering, for those left behind, they feel cheated and angry. Their overcome with loss and grief. Hubby vents his frustration via the guitar. His playing is full of frustration and anger. This fusion of emotion results in a track where darkness and light sit next to beauty and power. An outpouring of emotion, frustration and anger, it’s powerful, potent, emotive and beautiful.

Feedback Loops features some of Hubby’s best guitar playing on Breaks and Bone. Quite simply, it’s exquisite. Here, Hubby’s half-spoken vocal and chiming, reverberating guitar become one. They’re as one as they tell the story of going round in circles, never quite achieving anything. The problem is never ever solved. “Arguments help,” Hubby sings, but nothing quite gets to the root of the problem. There’s a weary, resigned sound in Hubby’s vocal, as he fears things will never be the same. 

There’s an almost uplifting sound to For Helen. It’s a quite beautiful instrumental. Here, Hubby’s pulled out all the stops. His playing veers between intricate, wistful and melancholy, to bold, beautiful and ethereal. Whoever this is a homage to, must have been a special lady?

It’s obvious the date Dec 11 has some significance in Hubby’s life. He’s almost welling up with emotion, anger and frustration. His vocal is whispery and emotive. Memories come flooding back. You fear emotion and anger will get the better of Hubby. Somehow, he manages to keep himself together. Then, as his vocal drops out, he unleashes a mesmeric guitar solo. All his anger, frustration and sadness is channeled via his guitar. This seems to relieve Hubby of his emotion and hurt, proving therapeutic.

Buckstacy has an understated sound. Slowly and thoughtfully, Hubby toys with his guitar. This is just a curveball. As a drum pounds, it’s all change. It provides the heartbeat as Hubby’s hand flits up and down the fretboard. He plays in a bold, decisive and sometimes, flamboyant, almost un-Hubby like way. There’s a joyous, uplifting sound to a track that shows another sound to Hubby’s music.

Sights closes Breaks and Bone. There’s a melancholy sound to Hubby’s vocal as he sings: “we never really spoke, but I expected the last conversation would have some meaning.” These powerful words will ring true for so many people. They always expect, the last thing a loved one will say to them, especially a parent to a child, will have some significance or deep meaning. That isn’t usually the case. This leads to people feeling cheated or having been robbed of something. They feel the last words someone should speak, should have some deep meaning in how to cope with the travails of life. Sadly, as Hubby sings, that’s not the case.

Breaks and Bone is not just one of the most captivating albums of 2013, but an album that’s cerebral and inspirational. The last part in the Ampersand trilogy, Breaks and Bone has you spellbound from the opening track. Despite being an instrumental, Son Of Princess, Brother of Rambo is something of a roller coaster journey. Listen to the track with an open mind, and thoughts, memories and ideas will cascade past your mind’s eye. From there, the music veers between becomes dark, bleak and nihilistic on Bolt, through to thoughtful, melancholy, emotive, joyous and uplifting. Often it’s introspective and seeking answers. That’s no bad thing. Hubby like so many other people, is looking for answers.

Many other people, like Hubby, have lost loved ones and are still grieving. It’s an ongoing process that needs worked through. For Hubby, music proves cathartic. He lost both parents a few years ago. Like many people, music is a way of finding answers to questions. Part of his trying to come to terms with this loss, is the Ampersand trilogy. Breaks and Bone is the final chapter in this trilogy. Let’s hope it’s helped Hubby to come to terms with his loss. I hope it’s helped Hubby in another struggle.

Another theme explored during Breaks and Bone, was depression. Like many people, Hubby has suffered from depression. He’s fought chronic depression for five years. Music to Hubby, has proved therapeutic and cathartic. Part of his healing process was the Ampersand trilogy, including Breaks and Bone. Let’s hope it’s helped Hubby to come to terms with what is a truly debilitating and heartbreaking illness. Certainly, some of the music on Breaks and Bone is much more uplifting. 

Several things haven’t changed from Thirteen Lost and Found. Breaks and Bone is another eclectic and emotional musical journey. It draws inspiration from disparate musical influences and genres. Folk, country, flamenco, Celtic, indie and Americana were thrown into the mix. Then there’s some of Scotland’s top musicians who played a part in the making of Breaks and Bone. Among them are Aidan Moffat, Emma Pollock and producer Paul Savage. Each of these musicians wanted to help one of the nicest men in Scottish music bring this very personal project to a close. Breaks and Bone, like the two previous chapters, is a highly personal, cerebral and emotive exploration of loss and depression. 

Seeking answers, R.M. Hubbert embarked upon the Ampersand trilogy. Now this musical journey is over. Hubby has kept the best until last. Breaks and Bone is the result of a two year musical journey. We can only hope R.M. Hubbert found the journey that was Ampersand trilogy both therapeutic and cathartic. Breaks and Bone is also truly compelling and personal album, that could see R.M. Hubbert pick up  2014s Scottish Album Of The Year Award. It would a fitting reward for one of Scottish music’s best kept secrets R.M. Hubbert.



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