Edinburgh based singer-songwriter Adam Holmes, is without doubt, one of the rising stars of Scottish music. His debut album Heirs and Graces was released to critical acclaim in January 2014. Later that year, Heirs and Graces was nominated for the prestigious Scottish Album of the Year Award, and the Best Album at the Scottish Traditional Music Awards. Adam Holmes’ star was definitely in the ascendancy.

By then, songs from Heirs and Graces was being played by radio stations across Britain, Europe and North America. This resulted in Heirs and Graces reaching number five in the iTunes singer-songwriter chart. The twenty-four year old singer-songwriter had come a long way in a short space of time.

Just over two years later, and Adam Holmes returns with the much anticipated followup to Heirs and Graces, Brighter Still. This time around, Adam Holmes and The Embers receive equal billing on Brighter Still, which was released on the Gogar label. Brighter Still is the latest chapter in a story that began when Adam Holmes was just fourteen,

That was when Edinburgh born, Adam Holmes, switched from fiddle to guitar. Just over a year later, he began writing his own songs. Over the next few years, Adam Holmes concentrated on honing his skills as a singer, songwriter and musician.

This quickly began to pay off. In 2009, Adam Holmes entered Celtic Connections’ Young Traditional Musician of the Year. He went on to reach the final of what’s one of the most prestigious traditional music competitions in Britain. However, more recognition would come Adam’s way.

Just two years later, Adam Holmes was nominated as the Best Newcomer at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2011. By then, Adam Homes’ natural habitat was the pubs and clubs across Britain where folk music was played. Adam would turn up play, and then head to the next venue. This was life for the next couple of years.

People were beginning to take notice of the Edinburgh born troubadour. So it was no surprise that in 2013, Adam Holmes was nominated for the Best Up and Coming Artist at the 2013 Scots Traditional Music Awards. By then, Adam Holmes’ thoughts had turned to his debut album.

In 2013, Adam Holmes entered the studio to record his debut album. Accompanied by his band The Embers, Adam recorded the ten songs that would become Heirs and Graces. 

Adam Holmes released his debut album Heirs and Graces in January 2013. It was released to critical acclaim, with Adam Holmes being hailed as an artist with a great future ahead of them. These were prescient and wise words.

Before long, songs from Heirs and Graces was being played by radio stations across Britain, Europe and North America. This resulted in Heirs and Graces reaching number five in the iTunes singer-songwriter chart. Soon, though things would get even better for Adam Holmes.

Later in 2014, Heirs and Graces was nominated for one of the biggest and most prestigious awards in Scottish music, the Scottish Album of the Year Award. Not long after this, Heirs and Graces was nominated for the Best Album at the Scottish Traditional Music Awards. The Edinburgh  singer-songwriter had come a long way in a short space of time.

Since then, Adam Holmes has continued to hone and develop his own unique style of music. It’s a mixture of musical genres and influences. Elements of Americana, country, folk and R&B can be heard in Adam Holmes music. So can the influences of his fellow countryman John Martyn, plus troubadours like James Taylor and Townes Van Zandt. That’s not forgetting Neil Young, The Band and even Bon Iver and Ryan Adams. The result is Adam Holmes’ take on Americana, where he doesn’t forget his Scottish roots. It’s a potent and heady brew.

This potent and heady brew features on Adam Holmes and The Embers’ new album Brighter Still. It features nine songs penned by Adam Holmes. These songs were recorded in Glasgow.

To get to Gloworm Recording in Glasgow, Adam Holmes and The Embers and journeyed along the M8 from east to west. Once they reached the studio, the band began to setup. The Embers rhythm section featured drummer and percussionist Callum McIntyre, bassist Alex Hunter and guitarist Stuart Nisbet who also plays pedal steel. John Lowrie played piano and electric piano; while Colin Train played Hammond organ and like Andy Paul, added backing vocals. Eddi Reader joined Adam on Love Down The Line. Meanwhile, Adam played acoustic and electric guitar, took charge of lead vocals and co-produced Brighter Still with Ian Hutchison. He would engineer the sessions, and later, mix and master Brighter Still. It was recorded live, by Adam Holmes and The Embers.

With Brighter Still complete, it was scheduled for release later in 2016. It marks the return of one of the true rising stars of folk music, Adam Holmes and The Embers.

Opening Brighter Still, is the ballad When The Lights Go Down. Just a lone electric piano plays, before the rhythm section, piano and acoustic guitar create a backdrop for Adam Holmes’ soul-baring, heartfelt, vocal. He gives thanks for the love that he’s found. Meanwhile, washes of Hammond organ are added, while the bass locks into a groove with Callum McIntyre’s subtle drums. They’re responsible the arrangement’s heartbeat. Gospel tinged harmonies are added, and soar above the arrangement, as a piano plays. Together, they provide the perfect backdrop for Adam on this beautiful, radio friendly paean where Adam Holmes and The Embers fuse elements of Americana, country, gospel and soul seamlessly.

People Come, People Go sees the tempo rise. Drums almost gallop, while a subtle, chiming guitar accompanies Adam’s vocal. Already, there’s similarities to Irish troubadour Paul Brady. It’s not just the vocal, but parts of the arrangement. Meanwhile Adam reassures: “everything’s gonna be alright, people come and people go, everything’s gonna be alright.”. Washes of Hammond organ add an atmospheric hue, as the rhythm section and guitars drive the arrangement along. The Embers then add urgent harmonies, as continues to reassure. Later, when the vocal drops out, The Embers enjoy the opportunity to showcase their considerable talents, before Adam returns on this carefully crafted and truly memorable song.

Just an organ plays slowly as Shining Star gradually reveals its secrets. It gives way to an acoustic guitar, piano and then Adam’s vocal. It’s full of emotion about a “Shining Star” he knows. She’s unselfish and strong, “your friends and family lean on you…someday someone is going to treat you right, someone will sing your song.” Soon, the rhythm section and crystalline guitar are joined by a Hammond organ, piano and harmonies. They accompany Adam as the arrangement builds blossoms. Then when the vocal drops out, the rest of the band jam, and add harmonies. It’s a truly irresistible slice of Americana, that features Adam Holmes and The Embers at their best.

The arrangement to One Soul is sparse, with just the drums and piano being joined by the bass. They provide the backdrop for Adam’s vocal. Although it’s full of sadness, but ultimately,he realises there’s nothing he can do for his brother. This is hard to take, as he delivers an impassioned and powerful vocal. Behind him, The Embers frame his vocal. Gradually, the pieces of the arrangement fall into place, including washes of whirling harmonies, a weeping guitar and harmonies. Then when the vocal drops out at 2.26, the rhythm section provides the heartbeat as the piano and then guitar take centre-stage. Meanwhile, the Hammond organ adds an atmospheric backdrop. Soon, though, the baton passes to Adam, and with harmonies accompanying him, he unleashes a vocal that’s a mixture a power, passion and emotion. They play their part in a powerful, poignant and beautiful ballad from Adam Holmes and The Embers.

Straight away, there’s cinematic sound to Nadine. Maybe it’s the way that the drums play slowly and dramatically, as the guitar rings out. They add an atmospheric backdrop. Adam meanwhile, delivers another soul-baring vocal. It sounds as if he’s lived the lyrics and experienced the hurt and heartbreak. So it seems, has the lone backing vocalist. By then, a piano joins the rhythm section and quivering guitar. They’re joined by a Hammond organ as Adam’s vocal drops out. From there, the guitars cut through the arrangement, adding to the drama. So do the drums, piano and ethereal backing vocal. Its reference point is Clare Torry’s vocal masterclass on Pink Floyd’s The Great Gig In The Sky. It plays a crucial part in the sound and success of Nadine, which is a near seven minute dramatic Magnus Opus.

There’s a change of direction on I Want To Be Your Friend. A slinky piano plays as the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. Adam delivers a heartfelt, hopeful vocal as he sings: “I Want To Be Your Friend.” Tender cooing harmonies respond to Adam’s vocal. Later, the arrangement is stripped bare. Just the piano, guitar and bass remain, as this hopeful ballad reaches a crescendo. It’s another carefully crafted song that showcases the multitalented Adam Holmes and The Embers.

Just an acoustic guitar accompanies Adam’s vocal on Love Down The Line. Soon, a piano, Hammond organ and the rhythm section enter, and play slowly as Adam asks: “are you ready to Love Down The Line?” When his vocal drops out, Eddi Reader  takes charge of the lead vocal. She breathes life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics, and then joins with Adam. Then as the vocal drops out, a weeping pedal steel is at the heart of an arrangement that sounds as if it was recorded in Nashville, not Glasgow. It’s the perfect backdrop for Adam and Eddi on another beautiful, poignant ballad.

With just a piano for company, Adam delivers a needy vocal on Joanna. He’s almost pleading as he sings oh Joanna: “won’t you stay, oh Joanna won’t you, did I tell you that I love you, did I tell you not to go?” Meanwhile, the weeping pedal steel, rhythm section and piano accompany Adam, as delivers a needy vocal where his hurt and heartbreak is omnipresent.

Closing Brighter Still is Cutting Loose, where an acoustic guitar and piano accompany Adam. Again, his vocal bristles with emotion as he delivers the lyrics on this ballad. Against a spartan arrangement Adam delivers the lyrics. There’s a mixture of relief, sadness and frustration, as he: “packs his bag…I’m on my way.” This frustration is reflected on the choppy guitar licks that replace his vocal. When it returns, it’s as if Adam has realised that Cutting Loose was the only option left for him. Just like each of his songs, it’s like a mini-drama that he brings to life with the help of The Embers.

Although Brighter Still features just nine songs lasting thirty-six minutes, each of the songs oozes quality. It doesn’t matter whether Adam Holmes and The Embers are singing ballads, or Cutting Loose on the more uptempo tracks, they’re equally at home. These songs were penned by Edinburgh born troubadour, Adam Holmes. He’s only in his mid-twenties, but writes lyrics that bely his relative youth. These lyrics are insightful and cinematic, and are akin to mini-dramas that Adam Holmes and The Embers bring to life. 

Adam Holmes breathes life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics. Sometimes, hurt and heartbreak are omnipresent, while other times, there’s a poignancy and beauty to the lyrics. Other times, there’s hope in the lyrics. There’s also the occasional jam and dramatic epic on Brighter Still. Often, though, disparate genres melt into one on Brighter Still. 

Elements of Americana, country, folk, gospel, rock and soul can be heard on Brighter Still. Often the songs on Brighter Still are a melting of musical influences, including the music that has influenced Adam Holmes. This includes troubadours like John Martyn, James Taylor and Townes Van Zandt. There’s also a nod towards Neil Young’s early solo music and The Band. All these artist have influenced Adam Holmes and it seems, The Embers. They’re a tight, talented band who seamlessly can shift between and fuse multiple musical genres. Not every band can do this. However, Adam Holmes and The Embers are not any band.

Instead, a great future awaits Adam Holmes and The Embers. They’re without doubt one of the rising stars of Sottish music. That’s been the case since Adam Holmes and The Embers released  their debut album Heirs and Graces in 2014. It found an audience in Britain, Europe and North America. However, Brighter Still, which was recently released on the Gogar label is a game changer of an album. It doesn’t just build on Heirs and Graces, but surpasses it.

That’s no surprise. Adam Holmes and The Embers seem to gave matured as a band since the release of Heirs and Graces.  So much so, that Brighter Still is a career defining album from Adam Holmes and The Embers. It’s also the album that should introduce Adam Holmes and The Embers to a much wider audience.  Hopefully, they will be won over by Brighter Still, an album of carefully crafted songs, that  showcase Adam Holmes and The Embers considerable skills and their unique and irresistible take on Americana. Brighter Still is a potent, heady and irresistible musical brew to drink deep and savour.




1 Comment

  1. ken smith

    And a very good album it is

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