This Is The Life
The Scotsman 5th April 2002

RICKY Rossís songwriting has never won as much respect as it merits. Why this is, isnít clear cut, but it may be connected to the inescapable naffness of his band, Deacon Blue (bad clothes, grinning drummer-turned-cheesy-TV-presenter, backing singer who sounded like a train). While being uncool is no crime, Rossís third solo album - his second stab at a solo career after a Deacon Blue reunion - could mark the moment he is finally taken seriously. Simply put, itís the best thing heís done.

Why? Mainly because it combines all the things he has always done well - concerned, thoughtful lyrics and, crucially, tunes - with a new subtlety that brings him closer to respected figures such as Mark Eitzel and Jeff Tweedy than the out-of-fashion anthemic rock he remains associated with. Rossís previous solo material was already heading this way, but This is The Life completes that journey. The title track is typical - its big chorus is almost Deacon Blue, but Ross resists the obvious "epic" arrangement (big strings, say); instead it feels restrained, calm, fitting with the resigned sentiment - this is the only life we have, get used to it. He holds back this way throughout, and the best moments are often the simplest ones - like the alt-country stroll of My Girl Going To Town, which brings to poignant life a lyric expressing simple parental concern. Those wanting instantly graspable, Real Gone Kid-style Scotrock will be disappointed - radio stations may be as well, which is a danger - but those prepared to abandon preconceptions will welcome an album that grows with every listen and a star who improves with age. Fiona Shepherd and Andrew Eaton