The Road Not Taken is the fourth studio album from Shoreditch-based Scotsman Adam Beattie whose eclectic take on contemporary folk has earned impressed nods from the barometer of great taste that is Mary Anne Hobbs, as well as considerable backing from BBC Radio Scotland DJs Roddy Hart and Bruce MacGregor.
Beattie approaches his songs with real care and delicacy. The instrumentals on tracks as ‘The Family Tree’ and title track, ‘The Road Not Taken’, comprise a warmth and sincerity that rides on plucked strings and the frayed silkiness of Beattie’s vocals.
Where The Road Not Taken really shines though is in its darkest moments. ‘I’m On Your Side’ introduces the delicious wickedness that lurks in the corners of this record through its fairground waltz of stammering guitars. Similarly, ‘You Only Kill The One You Love’ creeps along with an unnerving melancholy and far-off screeches of feedback, as Beattie sings: “Of all the girls I’ve ever met/ Not a single one remains…”
Throughout the record Beattie remains inventive with his lyricism. For instance, ‘Catch The Biggest Fish And Let It Go’ is a love song revolving around a girl who “went to the pub in her dressing gown/ To steal me toilet roll”, a rewrite of ‘She’s Always A Woman’ told through the simple balladry of Leonard Cohen or the Walker Brothers, but touched by elements of Ian Campbell and Pete Seeger.
Final track ‘Welcome Home’, written in collaboration with fellow Scot Mairearad Green, rocks the album to sleep. A wistful tune, cut through with Piotr Jordan’s melancholy strings marks a return to Beattie’s Celtic roots and evokes calm and comfort that comes with returning home.
The Road Not Taken is an album saturated in melody and a remarkably deft example of where contemporary folk music resides in 2016. Whilst it doesn’t necessarily make any great leaps forward in regards to novelty, its mix of country, blues and conventional folk tropes form themselves neatly into a slice of the old country that offers welcome respite from the interminable bustle of the capital.