Song, by Toad - Split 12-inch V3
Compilation featuring David Thomas Broughton, Jonnie Common, Siobhan Wilson and Sparrow and the Workshop
(Song, By Toad)
It's hard to imagine Edinburgh's (or Scotland's) grassroots pop landscape without Song, By Toad. Over the past decade, it has evolved from a music blog to a podcast, community hub and local promoter (see August's ace Pale Imitation festival) – not to mention an excellent DIY label and in-house studio, whose acts include Meursault, The Leg, Sparrow and the Workshop and Rob St John. It also releases online live sessions (PAWS, Josh T Pearson), one-off collaborations (Cold Seeds, Bastard Mountain) and occasional split-LPs, of which this is the third in a vinyl series. It is meticulously packaged, as ever.
While former split-LPs have comprised live Toad Session home-recordings from the likes of PAWS, Le Thug and Magic Eye, Split 12-inch v3 is compiled from bespoke sessions at last year's Insider Festival. The album's voices are varied and gorgeous, balancing names new to the label such as David Thomas Broughton, who'll release a full-length collaboration next month; and the show-stopping Siobhan Wilson, now trading as Ella The Bird, with enduring allies like Jonnie Common, also of Song, By Toad pop-wizards Inspector Tapehead; and porch-rock seducers Sparrow and the Workshop, who released their third album, Murderopolis, on the imprint last year.
It's impressively cohesive for an artist compilation, and themes of mortality, love and loss resonate throughout the album, from the baritone-folk of DTB's 'My Ageing Heart' (the guitar melodies in the song's twilight bars are sublime), through a sparse reworking of Sparrow and the Workshop's wondrous Murderopolis opener 'Valley of Death', to Jonnie Common's frailty-stricken aria, 'So and So'. There is rebirth, too – Common breathes new life into 'Summer is for Going Places,' a highlight from his 2011 LP, Master of None; Sparrow and the Workshop reanimate James Yorkston's 'Queen of Spain' (as 'Chalkhill Blue'); and Wilson's offering, 'Dear God', is a devastating, exquisite lullaby which heralds great promise for the singer-songwriter, as she takes flight as Ella the Bird.