RM HUBBERT- TELLING THE TREES.

RM HUBBERT- TELLING THE TREES.

Twenty-five years ago, in 1991, RM Hubbert made his first  tentative steps into Glasgow’s vibrant musical scene when he joined Me, Hubby and Thom. Since then, the man that’s known to all as Hubby, has become a stalwart of the Scottish music scene. He’s been a club promoter, and a member of The Blisters, Glue and El Hombre Trajeado. Then when El Hombre Trajeado disbanded in 2005, RM Hubbert embarked upon a solo career.

Six years later, in 2011, and RM Hubbert released his debut album First and Last. By then, tragedy had entered Hubby’s life. Both of his parents had recently passed away, and a grief-stricken Hubby needed something to distract himself from the loss of his parents. It was suggested that writing and recording an album might prove therapeutic. So Hubby began work on what became First and Last. It was a cathartic unburdening that was released by Chemikal Underground in 2011. Five years later, and RM Hubbert recently released his fifth album Telling The Trees on Chemikal Underground. It’s another album of collaborations. 

Telling The Trees finds RM Hubbert joined by a stellar cast of guest artists. This includes Anneliese Mackintosh, Anneke Kampman, Rachel Grimes, Kathryn Williams, Marnie, Martha Ffion, Sarah J. Stanley, Aby Vulliamy, Karine Palwart and Eleanor Friedberger. These multitalented songwriters, musicians and vocalists join RM Hubbert in creating another album of collaborations. Hubby’s first album of collaborations, Thirteen Lost and Found, won Hubby the Scottish Album Of The Year Award. It was his finest hour in career that began in 1991.   

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 we 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 debut album. 

First and Last.

Trying to rid his mind of the tragedy he’d experienced, Hubby wrote and recorded nine solo guitar tracks. They were his way of taking his mind of what had happened. Life hadn’t been easy for Hubby. Both his parents had passed away, and he had bravely battled depression. Hubby used these experiences for what became First and Last.

Contending with the loss of both of his parents and Hubby’s battle with depression became the threads that run through First and Last, and the Ampersand trilogy. The first instalment was First and Last, an intensely personal album. For Hubby, the songs were like a cathartic unburdening for Hubby, as he showcased his unique way of playing the guitar.

While First and Last featured Hubby playing guitar, he used a 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.

Thirteen Lost and Found was released on Chemikal Underground Records in January 2012. It was the second instalment in the Ampersand trilogy, and continued the theme of contending with the loss of both of his parents and his five year battle with depression. Just like First and Last, Thirteen Lost and Found was a very personal and emotional album. 

Joining Hubby for the recording of Thirteen Lost and Found, were a few of his friend. This included Alasdair Roberts, Aidan Moffat, Alex Kapranos and Emma Pollock. They would all feature on Thirteen Lost and Found, which again, was produced by Paul Savage. Thirteen Lost and Found was released 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 everyone from 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. 

On 20th June 2013, the great and good of Scottish music arrived at the glittering prize giving. There was only one topic of conversation…who would win? Some commentators and critics saw Hubby as an outsider. Others knew better, and were richly rewarded when Thirteen Lost and Found won the 2012 Scottish Album of The Year Award. Hubby had won Scotland’s most prestigious music award. Next for Hubby, was completing the recording of what was the last in the Ampersand trilogy of albums.

Breaks and Bone.

Breaks and Bone was the final album in a 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 extent he had 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 built on his first two albums in the Ampersand trilogy and completed the story. The Ampersand trilogy it seemed, was over. Or was it?

Ampersand Extras.

In October 2014, somewhat unexpectedly, Hubby released Ampersand Extras. It featured material that for a variety of “creative reasons” never found its way on the Ampersand trilogy.  However, these tracks were too good to remain in Chemikal Underground’s vaults. Especially Song For Jenny which featured Alan Bissett, True Love Will Find You In The End and Mo Ve’lla Bella Mia De La Muntagna which featured Alastair Roberts and Emma Pollock. These three tracks became part of Chem217, Ampersand Extras, which was released on 13th October 2014.

Critics agreed that the songs on Ampersand Extras were far too good to go unheard. There was more of the soul-searching and cathartic unburdening that took place on the Ampersand trilogy. Just like previous albums, it was moving, emotive, intense and personal album. However, Ampersand Extras closed the chapter in what had obviously been a traumatic time in Hubby’s life. Hopefully, he could now begin to move on.

Telling The Trees.

After eighteen months away, Hubby returned with his much anticipated fifth album Telling The Trees. It is the followup to Ampersand Extras, and will be the first album that’s outside of the Ampersand family of albums. For Hubby this is a step into the unknown. However, helping Hubby take a step into the unknown are a ‘few’ friends.

For Telling The Trees, Hubby decided to collaborate with some of his musical friends. He was joined by a total of ten guest artists who featured on eleven songs. Each of the guest artists played their part in the writing and recording of Telling The Trees.

Each of these guest artists aren’t ‘just’ singers and musicians. Far from it. Anneliese Mackintosh, Anneke Kampman, Rachel Grimes, Kathryn Williams, Marnie, Martha Ffion, Sarah J. Stanley, Aby Vulliamy, Karine Palwart and Eleanor Friedberger are also songwriters. Every song was written by Hubby and the artist he’s collaborating with. Mostly, it’s just Hubby and the two artists that feature on each song or instrumental. That’s apart from Chelsea Midnight which features Barry Burns and Jim Eno. These songs were recorded various studios.

This includes the familiar environs of Chem 19, in Blantyre, Lanarkshire. The studios are part of the Chemikal Underground empire, and where Paul Savage produced Telling The Trees. Parts of Telling The Trees was recorded by Paul and Jamie Savage at Chem 19. Other songs were recorded by Jim Eno at Public Hi-Fi and Sarah J Stanley at Stan’s Studio. Further recordings took place in a variety of studios, and were recorded by Rachel Grimes, Anneke Kampman, Anneliese Mackintosh and Barry Burns. However, Chem 19 was where Paul Savage produced, mixed and mastered Telling The Trees. Once Paul had finished working his magic, work began on the release of Telling The Trees. 

Just over eighteen months since the release of Ampersand Extras, and RM Hubbert returned recently, with his long-awaited  fifth album Telling The Trees. It was recently released by Chemikal Underground, and marks a new chapter in RM Hubbert’s career.

Opening Telling The Trees is The Dinosaur Where We Fell In Love, which features Anneliese Mackintosh. The title conjures up images of two lonely people finding love beside an oversized model of Barney The Dinosaur. That’s quite  not the case. 

Instead, Hubby plucks his guitar slowly, before playing with a degree of urgency. This sets the scene for Anneliese’s theatrical introduction: “the man and woman in this story are also a bear and wolf, a wicker basket and blackberry bush.” Quickly, it becomes apparent that this is a song about reincarnation. There’s a twist though. Sometimes, when reincarnation occurs, it’s not as a human. “Once she came back as a cracked bottle, he returned as a chest of drawers.” Later, Anneliese dramatically says: “lets go to the dinosaur he said,” and the two reincarnates embark upon an adventure. It’s one where they experience wonderment, longing and ultimately love, during what’s a dramatic mixture of music and theatre.

A series of distant beeps can be heard as Hubby confidently plucks and strums his guitar on Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror. Scatted and sometimes elegiac harmonies accompany Anneke Kampman’s indie pop vocal. Meanwhile, Hubby plays with urgency, his fingers flitting up and down the freeboard. Sometimes, he drums on his guitar, as he provides the backdrop for Anneke’s vocal. Together, they create a catchy and memorable slice of lo-fi indie pop. 

Rachel Grimes joins Hubby on In Accordia. Straight away, there’s a degree of melancholia as the deliberate arrangement unfolds. It features just a piano and guitar. They play leading roles in a track that’s wistful, ruminative and beautiful.

I Can Hold You Back features Kathryn Williams, who won the Scottish Album Of The Year Award in 2015. Slowly and deliberately, Hubby plays guitar, while Kathryn delivers a tender, fragile and thoughtful vocal. Soon, though, frustration and even anger fills Kathryn’s vocal as she sings: “don’t you say it’s all right.” By then, the arrangement is a mixture of power and drama, as Kathryn chastises. Later, Kathryn’s vocal is rueful and tinged with sadness as she wonders: “why did I ask too soon?” Adding to the melancholy nature of the song is Hubby’s guitar playing. He adds crystalline licks as Kathryn adds harmonies, and then a whispery, needy vocal. Especially as she sings: “I want you back, I Can Hold You Back.” Pounding drums add the finishing touch to what’s without doubt one of the highlights of Telling The Trees.

Drums pound urgently on Sweet Dreams, providing a backdrop for Marnie’s vocal. Meanwhile, Hubby adds his trademark guitar sound, before a Euro pop synth makes it presence felt. By now, it seems Hubby and Marnie are heading for the dance-floor. Ethereal harmonies are added, before the arrangement is stripped bare. Just the pounding, mesmeric drums and Hubby’s guitar remain. Later, as the arrangement begins to rebuild, Marnie’s vocal is joined by ethereal, cooing harmonies, piano and the buzzing, beeping synth. The arrangement grows and builds to a crescendo, as Hubby plays his part in this dance-floors friendly track. It shows another side of Hubby, and one he’s kept well hidden…until now.

Kathryn Joseph returns on The Dog, a song she cowrote with Hubby. Hubby’s guitar accompanies Kathryn’s heartfelt, quivering vocal. It’s a captivating, stark song about heartbreak, where Kathryn’s vocal quite rightly takes centre-stage. Augmenting the arrangement, are a myriad of creaks, squeaks and strangely percussive found sounds. They provide the perfect backdrop to Kathryn’s vocal on a song that’s best described as atmospheric, cinematic, poignant and moving.

Although Martha Ffion was born in Ireland, Glasgow has become her adopted home. She joins Hubby on The Unravelling, and plays a starring role in the song, As Hubby plays his guitar, Martha reminisces of the past. Her vocal veers between dreamy and hopeful, to tinged with sadness and regret when her life began to unravel. Cooing, elegiac harmonies accompany her as she sings of people: “doing anything to save their own skin.” When Martha ruefully delivers the lyrics, it’s with sadness and disdain. She continues to breathe life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics. 

Slowly and deliberately Hubby strums the guitar on Probably Will/Probably Do. Soon, it’s all change when Sarah J. Stanley’s vocal enters. Sarah is a Glasgow based singer, songwriter and musician, and embraces this opportunity to showcase her considerable skills. Reverb is added to her pensive vocal as a drum machine joins synths and Hubby’s firmly strummed guitar. Emotion fills Sarah’s vocal as Hubby adds flourishes of guitar. Sometimes, Sarah sounds like Suzanne Vega, as her vocal veers between tender, thoughtful and emotive. It’s one of the best vocals on Telling The Trees, and features one of Scotland’s best kept musical secrets…Sarah J. Stanley.

Kas is an instrumental where Hubby’s joined by Aby Vulliamy. From the get-go, Hubby’s guitar is to the fore. That’s until flourishes of guitar combine with melancholy, ruminative, heart-tugging strings. They quiver, shiver and glide across the arrangement, creating a cinematic instrumental that invites the listener to let their imagination run riot.

Karine Polwart is another stalwart of the Scottish music scene. She’s an underrated singer and songwriter, who possesses a quite beautiful voice. It features on Yew Tree, where Karine delivers an impassioned vocal. She cautions: “slow down and breath easy, lean your back to the Yew Tree, let the heart begin a new story, where the bow rings hear.” Later, when Karine’s joined by harmonies, they prove a potent and meldic combination. Especially as she sings: “I won’t take it, but I’ll receive.” Later, Karine wistfully sings: “it’s in our hands the whole thing now.” Then when the vocal drops out, Hubby delivers a mesmeric and melodic solo. Soon, it’s joined by Karine, who we hear a different side of on Yew Tree. Maybe Karine should record her next album with producer Paul Savage? His production style seems to transform Karine’s vocal on Yew Tree and she takes on a much more commercial sound.

Chelsea Midnight closes Telling The Trees. It features Eleanor Friedberger’s vocal, plus Barry Burns and Jim Eno. As Hubby’s guitar plays, it’s joined by a piano and Eleanor’s vocal. Memories come flooding back, as ruefully she remembers: “she kicked me out in the street.” Soon, emotion fills Eleanor’s vocal as she remembers: “Chelsea morning, Chelsea Midnight, my tears mixed with pouring rain.” Hurt, heartbreak and anguish come pouring out, as the song becomes a cinematic confessional. “Up here in the fifteenth floor, I’ve the best view inside, I never saw past your eyes, you never spent the night.” By then, the arrangement builds, slowing and becoming dramatic as it reaches a poignant crescendo.

Eighteen months after the release of Ampersand Extras, RM Hubbert recently returned with his fifth album Telling The Trees. It was released by Glasgow’s premier label Chemikal Underground, which has been home to RM Hubbert since his debut album in 2011. Five years later, and RM Hubbert was joined by ten guest artists on Telling The Trees. 

These guest artists are a mixture of established and up-and-coming artists. They’re responsible for a captivating album of genre-melting music…Telling The Trees. It features everything from folk, country, flamenco, indie pop and America. Telling The Trees features music that’s atmospheric, beautiful, cinematic,  ethereal, hook-laden, melancholy, pensive, poignant and ruminative. The result is an enthralling album that hopefully, marks the start in a new chapter in RM Hubbert’s career.

Telling The Trees is the first album of the post Ampersand years. The threads that run through the Ampersand quartet were Hubby contending with the loss of both of his parents and a five year battle with depression. Hopefully, Hubby is coming to terms with the loss of his parents, and has won his brave battle with depressions. If he has, then Telling The Trees will be the start of a new chapter in the career of RM Hubbert. That would be fitting. Twenty-five years ago, in 1991, RM Hubbert took his first tentative steps into Glasgow’s vibrant musical scene. Nowadays, RM Hubbert is regarded as a veteran of the Scottish music scene, whose just released his much-anticipated and critically acclaimed fifth album Telling The Trees.

RM HUBBERT- TELLING THE TREES.

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