This year's Americana Music Association conference had a new session 'BBC Introducing', hosted by Sir Bob Harris. Held in Nashville's Hard Rock Cafe, 'Whispering Bob', the father of all things Americana, had hand-selected three undiscovered, unsigned artists to showcase at the AMA conference. For the chosen artists this was a pretty big deal; for the audience it was an amazing opportunity to witness some of the UK's best emerging musicians.
I have been following the progress of Blue Rose Code, the Edinburgh-born songwriter Ross Wilson, for a while, and it was a delight to see him perform in Nashville. The last of the three acts to play, he had a potentially difficult timeslot - 7.30pm, which regular Americanafest attendees will recognise is the time to leave downtown Nashville on the shuttle buses to grab a good spot at the evenings gigs!
However, Ross played to a fairly packed venue and an audience that had sacrificed seeing the more well-established names to take a chance on Sir Bob's tips for the future. And that without doubt was a good decision.
Blue Rose Code's music doesn't fit neatly into any category. Indeed this was summed up by Ross's tale of having his demo returned by a folk radio station - a post-it note was attached with the brief message ''This is not Folk''. But maybe his music is Americana, particularly if we use Jim Lauderdale's great definition that Americana Music is simply 'the best stuff'.
Ross has been described as 'a meeting of Van Morrison and a young John Martyn', and certainly the latter influence is very noticeable. His voice is haunting, he has a weariness beyond his years, and his debut CD 'North Ten', featuring legendary bassist Danny Thompson, is totally addictive.
His music is full of light and shade, he is constantly moving around on stage, often barefoot, and his song-writing takes you on personal journeys from his Scottish roots to his current home in London, one minute quite hilarious, the next deeply sad.
Ross Wilson is a truly gifted singer-songwriter, and has a growing following in the UK. However his Nashville performance, complete with backing musicians and some nice musical instruments, was in contrast to his solo gigs back home with a guitar held together with duct-tape and lots of love. These performances are none the worse for it of course, but a reminder that a personal recommendation from Sir Bob doesn't guarantee an overnight fortune.
Whispering Bob and I urge you to check out Blue Rose Code:
Video of 'Ghosts of Leith' from Nashville:
Video of 'Julie', September 2013, Glasgow:
Bob Harris introducing Blue Rose Code, Nashville (BBC website)