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Doghouse Roses Doghouse Roses
Album: Lost Is Not Losing
Label: Yellowroom
Tracks: 11

Lost Is Not Losing is an album that yields an absolutely absorbing concoction with majestic guitar playing and peerless, glorious vocals on songs that drift from laments to country highway stonkers with spirit and no little emotion, intimacy, political messages and artistic observations on life.

Put simply, Doghouse Roses - with Paul Tasker's boundless creativity on guitar and Iona Macdonald's flawless singing immense - have emerged after a six-year recording absence to bond again on a wonderful collection of compelling songs.

Tasker is an undisputed master of the flowing and intricate guitar style he adopts. This helps all the songs to bed down and simmer unobtrusively to welcome Macdonald's radiant vocals as she shares subtle, lo-fi moments with beefier numbers that sound as if they were a whole load of fun to record with their chums in Glasgow.

While there's no doubting the Scottish roots swirling across the eleven tracks or the tone of the songs' contents on this their third studio album, there are also subtle hints of Richard Thompson, The Cowboy Junkies, Bert Jansch, Sandy Denny and even Fleetwood Mac, albeit without any needless glitz.

Whether it's the tender and forlorn tale of a man who's more interested in drinking than relating to people on opener, Pour, or the hearty romp and skiffle-like stomp of Diesel Engine (with Slovenian virtuoso, Dejan Lapanja cranking out in supercharged fashion on lead guitar), or the careering-along-a-dusty-highway delights of Crooked Life, Doghouse Roses perform with assured delicacy or carefree swagger in whatever musical terrain they swerve into.

Fairground is a striking ballad about a former prostitute who dispassionately confesses: "Those many men who loved me as they lay down by my side / I soon detached my body from my mind". Macdonald's delivery is deft with Jez Hellard's vivid harmonica complementing the pace of the song perfectly.

On To Decide, with John Alexander's pleasing added acoustic guitar, the lyrics unfold, accompanied by a gentle, twinkling melody, though political or personal uncertainty is declared when Macdonald sings: "Well, it's been way too long I've been standing // in the same place with nothing going on // it has taken way too long to decide".

The duo crank up the attitude again on Weather The Storm, which has a subdued Stevie Nicks/Lindsay Buckingham vibe. It's a stick-on radio playlist track, if ever there was one. The near four-minute song cranks up with a punchy guitar breakout in the middle then, cleverly, the calm seeps back momentarily before the rocky bite sees the song to a conclusion.

Overall, this is an outstanding and album that mixes gratifyingly gusto and finesse. It bowls along like a bunch of thirsty cowhands heading for a beer and a hoedown but it reverts imperceptibly to being compassionate, refined, mature and altogether wonderful.

Tasker's guitar playing can never be praised enough and Macdonald's voice emerges from a cloak of fine netting to drift and captivate the listener.

This year's 'best ofs' are starting to be printed and devoured but November releases tend to miss out, sadly - but Lost Is Not Losing is already in my top choices for the year.

Mike Ritchie