BACK UP TO ZERO is the long awaited third album from Edinburgh duo Adam Amos and Noel Rocks. The pair recorded two albums in the 80s, but stopped performing together when Adam moved abroad. Work began on this album when he returned to Scotland in 2019.
Amos and Rocks bring the bounce and lightness of touch from 50s and 60s Coffee shop folk singers like Pete Seeger, while staying true to their own Scottish roots. The album is a collection of self-penned observational songs influenced by North American acoustic music as well as Scottish and Irish traditions. "Back Up to Zero" has that singalong classic folk lilt, "Fields of Georgia" with David Paton's rich Bass has a darker feel. Songs like Noel Rocks' "Coldest Time Of The Year" and "Belfast Song" have a graceful integrity and charm, the arrangements are subtle, giving the listener the clear sound of two or three musicians performing. With the sound, Stuart Hamilton and Castlesound Studios come up trumps once again. Noel and Adam deliver their songs and harmonise with the ease of seasoned performers, leaving room for deftly strummed guitar or Kenny Hutchison's atmospheric understated accordion.
As performers the duo bring a humanity and fragility to songs like "Superman (Its Not Easy)", real people singing about real things. Both Noel and Adam are sharp lyricists, with the words of "Loaded With Bad News" and "If I Find a Way" flowing like conversation or folk talking blues, nothing sounds contrived or forced. The interplay between Su-a Lee's cello, Adams guitar and Noel's rolling banjo on "If I Find A Way" is just a delight that you could listen to all night. Similarly the insistent banjo on "900 Miles" becomes wheels on iron rails and the vocal harmonies have the cadence of the train whistle, even over the racing picking, the singers sound chilled and soothing. Intimate, gentle, soothing and recommended.
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