McIntosh Ross "The Great Lakes"
Americana UK 20th October 2009

Deacon Blues...and Ryan-fuelled country

Ricky Ross and Lorraine McIntosh were the lead and background vocalists for Scottish pop-rockers Deacon Blue. It is of course compulsory that all ‘80s acts regroup for the premature nostalgia circuit, and whilst the Deacon Blue machine does occasionally reunite for the odd big show, since they called it a day as a working band McIntosh has found success in TV and film acting, whilst Ross has knocked out a few solo albums, and then settled as a songwriter for hire for the likes of James Blunt, Will Young, Ronan Keating and Jamie Cullum (yeah, thanks for that Ricky!)

Their former band’s literate pop styling placed them leagues above their peers at the time, but yes, for their debut foray into duet-hood, they have gone westwards to record and also it has to be said, a bit alt-country. To their credit (or maybe their recording budget) they have also assembled a hand-picked session band and producers the likes of which have graced works by Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris & Sparklehorse.

With harmony and melody to the fore, pleasing glimmers of Gram and Emmy spring to mind often, particularly on ‘Oh The Dark’ and ‘Silver & Gold’ or more prominently with Ross’s attractively cracked emotional voice and McIntosh’s sweet counter-harmony, like Ryan Adams and Norah Jones ala their beautiful ‘Dear John’ collaboration, particularly on the fabulously lilting and atmospheric title track and also highlight ‘Your Straight Man’.

‘Passing Place’ is the finest song on the record, a deceptively simple swaying country duet that has Ryan Adams’ gorgeous melodic sensibility, and inebriated bar-room longing all over it. It is followed quickly by ‘Walls’ a fragile acoustic lament that is so deftly delivered it can’t fail to both break and warm your heart in equal measures. More of these moments and we’d have a true, if surprising, classic on our hands.

With a prerequisite concept of both members each contributing simply constructed, honest songs, their new alt-country/roots colours actually suit them surprisingly well, and while at their most cloying, Radio 2 ready or disappointing moments (‘Gloria’, or bonus song ‘Jesus Nailed my Sins to Upon The Tree’, a gospel number where they become backing singers on their own record) they can be saccharine sweet and momentarily dull, there are enough honestly wonderful sparklingly melodic moments here to please anyone with a fully functioning heart and love of good, well written and performed songs.

Date review added: Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Reviewer: Ian Fildes
Reviewers Rating: 8/10
Related web link: artist website