Doghouse Roses, This Broken Key (Yellowroom Music, 2010)
This Broken Key is the second full album release from the distinctive Glasgow-based duo, Doghouse Roses. Most marked about this follow-up to their 2008 debut, is an increased confidence, evident not just in the performances themselves but by the manner in which the duo boldly traverse genres and styles, whilst simultaneously leaving their own indelible impression. Musically speaking, This Broken Key finds the duo cementing their place on the musical spectrum amongst the most deserving descendants of the folk-blues boom of the 'sixties and 'seventies, and more importantly it finds the flame lit by their ancestors burning brightly. Whilst accompanied here by several able musicians to give a real 'band' sound at times, the essence of Doghouse Roses remains firmly rooted around the effortless cool of Paul Tasker's guitar, and the sublime modesty of Iona Macdonald's voice. It's a combination of their high regard for the musical inheritance they have claimed as their own, and a canny ability to reinterpret this amongst more contemporary influences that bestows This Broken Key with a strong sense of pedigree.
Opening the album with the sparse, gospel-tinged "Atonement," gives both musicians a chance to demonstrate their wares to best effect: Iona delivering a soulful, sassy vocal, whilst Paul's guitar alternates between jaunty rhythm and precision-picking. Lifting the pace with it's rolling melody and bass-driven groove, "Woodstock" unfolds as a story whose characters carefully negotiate the boundaries of carefree and careless abandon, with a nonchalant vocal performance soaked in charisma.
Jazzy intonations herald the opening of "The Rain" with a lazy bass-line proving the ultimate foil for Paul's crisp guitar and Iona's warm, leisurely vocal. There is a particular flirtatiousness about "Devil In Me," with a seductive vocal delivered over a chic, placid guitar and a rhythm section that trips along nicely.
Finishing with "The Highwayman," the duo present what may be their best writing effort yet, offering a haunting melancholy, with lyrics that appear to seek reconciliation, but ultimately only seem to find stark loneliness. It's a beautifully crafted web of sentiments, expressed in a gentle, poetic language embodying the ubiquitous language of a journey; it could be one of those journeys that bridges the gaps between life's chapters, or indeed the journey of one's entire lifetime.
The ghosts of heroes who have gone before loom large throughout This Broken Key, but the soul of the music is reinvigorated by the talent and dedication of this formidable duo. They share their enthusiasm generously with an intimacy that will win many a heart.