RM Hubbert – Telling the Trees (3 stars)

RM Hubbert – Telling the Trees

The finger-picking SAY award-winner takes a fondness for collaboration to enjoyable new levels

Across several years of profitable flamenco and finger-picking guitar excellence, RM ‘Hubby’ Hubbert has teamed up with several renowned acts from around these shores. Emma Pollock, Aidan Moffat, Hanna Tuulikki and Alex Kapranos are four artists who have all benefited from the lush string-playing of the man who scooped the second Scottish Album of the Year award in 2013 with Thirteen Lost and Found. For this new project, he cranks up his collaborative ethos with a set of songs all emboldened by the presence of female accompaniment. And he’s assembled not just any old female accompaniment but the likes of Karine Polwart, Kathryn Joseph, Kathryn Williams and Anneliese Mackintosh. That list of names tells you that Telling the Trees is at its very roots a diverse, earthy and evocative collection.

And it certainly starts with a jump as author Mackintosh delivers a stirring evolutionary monologue referencing everything from Alexander the Great to The Hunger Games in ‘The Dinosaur Where We Fell in Love’. Embossed by Hubbert’s soaring and layered playing, it’s an undeniably dynamic and thrilling opening but assumes a high bar that the rest of the album tries its best to keep up with, only occasionally succeeding in reaching up to.

The partners which Hubbert have enlisted aren’t always vocals ones as pianist Rachel Grimes and viola player Aby Vulliamy team up with atmospheric success. There’s also a pleasing sense of brooding menace in ‘I Can Hold You Back’ with Kathryn Williams while Ladytron’s Marnie brings an ethereal charm to ‘Sweet Dreams’ and Karine Polwart bestows much lovelier modern associations upon the lamented ‘Yew Tree’.

Telling the Trees is a bold and fertile experiment which enhances RM Hubbert’s reputation as a singular musician whose creative generosity proves too tall an order for some of his contributors to match.

Out Fri 29 Apr on Chemikal Underground.

RM Hubbert

Guitar instrumentals from the artist who won the Scottish Album of the Year in 2013.