Randolph’s Leap – Clumsy Knot – Album Review
An album review and a song-by-song guide to each track by singer-songwriter Adam Ross.
Hmmm, how would you describe Randolph’s Leap to someone who has never heard them…? I’d start with a stab at folksy, with a shoogle of pop thrown in a sense of humour, and a lively edge. It is difficult to describe a band that sound very different to everything else that is on the scene just now. Innovative, and distinctive, without going all out weird!
This 8 piece band has appeared at T in the Park, Celtic Connections, Wickerman, Belladrum and Fence Records’ HomeGame, AwayGame, Green Man, and Eye O’The Dug Festival. The band is made up of the following folk – Adam Ross (guitar/vocals), Iain Taylor (drums), Vicki Cole (bass), Andrew MacLellan (electric guitar/cello), Heather Thikey (violin), Ali Hendry (trumpet), Fraser Gibson (trombone) and Pete MacDonald (keyboards)
If you have ever been lucky enough to be at a proper Scottish house party with a family of performers, think a way more polished version of that, and you come close. All that’s missing is the drunken uncle singing slightly out of key in a corner.
Funny songs, catchy wee ditties, and a unique sound. Adam’s voice just fits with the sound. A slight quaver here and there, and on some songs the slightly petulant sound of someone not quite settled with their lot in life, especially evident on “Weatherman” and “Gina” saying that, there is humour in the songs as well, so don’t expect a whiney dirge!
It took me a few listens to really click onto the lyrics. For a first listen, it is not background music but then clever lyrics and the self-depreciating humour in the songs should not be pushed to the background. Clever, tuneful, and funny, but with a delightfully dark, typically Scottish humour.
Love and loss, life and death it is all covered. Even a jaunty wee holiday tune about getting away to the Isle of Love “to reconnect with the things that matter” that I can guarantee will get stuck in your head. It is that wee song that stays in the back of your head to jump to the forefront in the dairy aisle at the supermarket. You find yourself humming away – although I have to confess to failing dismally at Adam’s beautiful high notes, so I do apologise to anyone I have inflicted that on!
“Foolishness of Youth” makes me chuckle. “How can you dance with him, when you could dance with me?” Oh how much truth is there in this line for each and every one of us at some point? Looking at someone having the person of our desire, and the daft things we will do to impress them.
“Light of the Moon” is another clever one, on first listen, this kind of passed me by, but when you stop and listen, is a very well written 3 minutes of poetry to music, which tells its own wee story, as every track on the album does. It is also the track that gives the album its name.
Don’t get lulled into thinking these are one trick ponies though, “Microcosm” kicks up a gear into something with a stronger beat, but it still tells a story. Fun song that is a wee bit faster than some of the other tracks.
“Cold” is a beautiful, haunting track. A beautiful waltz, pretty lyrics about remaining aloof, but with a twinge of regret. For this reviewer, it rings very true for not being one to share a confidence easily.
“I Can’t Dance To This Music Anymore” musically accomplished, and another one that you’ll end up humming along to.
Clumsy Knot is released on April 7th. Would I buy it? I have to admit on the first few listens, it would have been a no from me. It didn’t quite “click” but then a half dozen or so listens down the line; a few of the tracks got me to pay more attention. When you find yourself singing “has everybody heard the news I’m going insane” you realise you’ve maybe taken in more than you thought… or perhaps that’s more of an insight into this reviewer! So yes, on April 7th, in a record shoppy, clenched in my sweaty little mitts will be the cash for a copy of this album, and I can foresee a future gig and some merchandise finding a new home as well.
Words by Pierced Princess.
A TRACK-BY-TRACK GUIDE TO RANDOLPH’S LEAP’S DEBUT ALBUM
By Singer/Songwriter Adam Ross
1. UNNATURAL The most westerly song on the album. I wrote it in the Ardnamurchan peninsula to a captive audience of pine martens. A song about self-criticism and anxiety.
2. FOOLISHNESS OF YOUTH I spent ages trying to find a keyboard tone that sounded like Intuition by John Lennon. I didn’t find it. Not even on my £9.99 Casiotone MT-52. The song is kind of about worrying about stupid stuff we did/said in the past. I’m sad that “youth” isn’t really an excuse I can use anymore.
3. NEWS I’m proud of the amount of craziness we managed to fit in to 1 minute and 20 seconds. Hearing Fraser’s trombone part in isolation is an avant-garde joy to behold. It was recorded at Pete MacDonald’s house, which in its past lives has apparently been a Polish embassy, a W.I. dancehall and home to Teenage Fanclub.
4. HERMIT In October 2012 the lyric “hermit the frog” appeared on a Fence Records 7”. In August 2013 Fence Records ended. We recorded this song in the wonderful Chem 19 studios.
5. GINA Gina is in fact a very reasonable employer and I apologise for casting unfavourable aspersions. Someone told me the drums sound like the theme tune to ‘Scrubs’. I used a public domain drum loop so it’s possibly the same one.
6. LIGHT OF THE MOON A good example of a recording which is really different to the live version. I enjoy that aspect of the band. This song gave us the album title (“I’d tie a clumsy knot around a tender thought”). The chorus is about someone being a big fish in a small pond. Not me though. I’ve never been a big fish. At best I’m akin to average sized plankton.
7. WEATHERMAN Somebody once asked me sincerely if this song was based on the film The Weather Man starring Nicolas Cage. Ironically, this is one of the few Randolph’s Leap songs not inspired by Nicolas Cage. An acoustic version appeared on a mini-album called As Fast As A Man and it’s become a favourite to play live.
8. BLACK & BLUE Many things can be both black and blue. For example: the sky, clothing (e.g. trousers), paint, exotic fruit. An attempt to write a song that was really simple but affecting. Musically, it’s inspired by Kath Bloom, Sandy Denny and Karen Dalton. Lyrically, there’s hardly anything to it but I think that works in its favour and it’s my favourite recording on the album.
9. ISLE OF LOVE My girlfriend, Michelle, the person whom I trust and admire more than anyone else, once told me that this song made her feel sick. Oh well. I think I’d been listening to a lot of Jonathan Richman when I wrote this one.
10. MICROCOSM On that same day, Michelle told me that this one sounded Japanese(?!). This song made it onto the album just in the nick of time. Another fun one to play live.
11. SAXOPHONE The oldest song on the album. It’s been around for a while but I knew that when we finally came to record it we’d have to find a good sax player. We found a very good one (Bill Fleming). LISTEN TO THAT FLIPPIN’ SOLO! Thanks Bill.
12. COLD The delightful electric guitar tone on this song is actually an acoustic guitar sent through an effects box. Hard to believe but 100% true. One of the few songs I’ve managed to write without obsessing over rhyming couplets.
13. I CAN’T DANCE TO THIS MUSIC ANYMORE Kid Canaveral recently asked if they could record a version of this song. So by the time you read these words I might be rich as heck. It first appeared on a home-recorded album called The Curse of the Haunted Headphones and is, as far as I’m aware, the only song to reference Crossmyloof train station.
Randolph’s Leap Website