ALBUM REVIEW: Roseanne Reid – ‘Trails’

Getting there in time for the support is often rewarded by discovering new names. That’s how I came across Roseanne Reid who has just released her debut album,Trails. Backing no less a name as Kathy Mattea, Reid’s low key, quiet approach to roots/Americana made a deep impression on this listener. Trails should send her to the top of the bill.

For most of the album you’d think Reid comes from East Tennessee rather than the east coast of Scotland. She sounds as if she’s been singing roots Americana for decades. In a voice as smooth as a shot of the finest bourbon (or perhaps that should be single malt?)   Reid asks blunt questions with responses of an equally unqualified honesty. There is a sparseness to Reid’s singing and playing that is by no means a shortcoming, but only amplifies her ability to express herself.

Roseanne Reid has been immersed in music since learning guitar aged 12. Her dad is Craig Reid of The Proclaimers, a great support but Roseanne has done her own thing, starting on the local folk club circuit, often open mic nights. Engaging on stage, Reid and producer Teddy Thompson have preserved that live feel on Trails.

Opener ‘Amy’ starts with a very simple guitar line before giving way to Reid’s tranquil drawl. Her playing and voice are soft, so you have to listen carefully. At the same time names spring to mind; Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams, Martha Wainwright? There are strands of each and many others but Roseanne Reid is no cover artist, she brings a completely new and original sound.

Even with additional musicians Reid sings at the same pitch, a triumph of production. ‘Heading North’ has the full band behind her but whether the organ, gentle slide or drum, each is there to supplement this wonderful voice. ‘I Love Her So’ pulls in horns as well to create a luxurious flow for Reid’s heartfelt candour.

‘It Is You’ has a jaunty country vibe far from Reid’s Scottish roots but music travels and  she fits into her adopted surroundings so well. Distance is a recurring theme as confirmed in ’Miles Away’. Calls from the road make her question very honestly whether it’s all worth it. Roseanne Reid, it most certainly is.

Already it is clear Reid does melancholy so well, another example being ’Levi’ where she offers a sympathetic shoulder to one rejected in love. The pace does pick up occasionally. ‘Me Oh My’ swings along, and again there is a feeling of deja vu. But no, you haven’t heard this before, it is brand new. ‘Take it From Me’ also has a touch of Texas swing, prompting an image of Reid performing from roadhouse bar to bar.

‘Sweet Annie’ is the only song on the record with another voice. Spoiler alert; it’s Steve Earle. Reid attended one of Earle’s Camp Copperhead songwriting workshops where her open mic experience came in handy when she performed ‘Amy’ to Earle and her fellow writers. He rated Reid very highly, certainly enough to perform on one of her songs. Against a mournful bow across strings they duet as if they’ve been a double-act for years.

Reid reveals her true roots in ‘Out In Space’, singing in a soft Scottish lilt. Again, the emotion is straightforward love, and again reflections from afar, “I know there is a time and place/Can’t you feel it girl way out in space”. Even the tune conveys a separation measured in light years.

Unsurprisingly perhaps Trails closes with its most haunting song, ‘What I’ve Done’. Filled with remorse but acceptance, Reid almost whispers, “Go howling at that moon, go howling at that moon/ it’s only mocking you for truth untold”.

Trails is such a polished yet immediate set of songs that after several listenings it is still hard to realise this is a debut. Roseanne Reid deserves all the accolades Trails should attract. What’s now much less hard to imagine is the many fans walking five hundred miles to see her headline shows.

Lyndon Bolton