New album aims to raise awareness for Migrant Offshore Aid Station
Richard Dawson, Kathryn Joseph and Bonnie Prince Billy appear on charity LP
You might suggest that a compilation roll-call spanning Richard Dawson, Kathryn Joseph, Bonnie Prince Billy and Ricky Ross was the work of a well-connected curator, not to mention a person of excellent taste. But the Glasgow folk artist behind a new charity LP, Refugee, claims its stellar range of talent is testament not to his orchestration, but rather to the power of its cause: the album aims to raise money for, and awareness of, the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS).
‘I'd say the musicians who agreed to be involved chose the project, more than I chose them in particular,’ Robin Adams says of the gorgeous pop anthology, which also includes original unreleased songs from BMX Bandits, Rachel Sermanni, Rick Redbeard, Alasdair Roberts and folk-rock luminary Linda Thompson. ‘I wasn't too precious about who I asked, to be honest. I sent out a lot of emails to a lot of artists I admired or thought could help raise awareness.’ All proceeds from the album will go to MOAS, who’ve saved more than 13,000 lives in the Mediterranean Sea since 2013.
The album reflects on myriad aspects of the refugee crisis in Syria and beyond, and is variously beautiful, provocative and devastating. ‘I especially love the opening line of Bonnie Prince Billy’s song, "Most People” – “Most people are gone / Desecrated in a blur” – that's incredibly powerful,’ Adams offers. ‘Alasdair Roberts had a contact for Will Oldham [aka Bonnie Prince Billy], so that's how that song came about.’
Another coup was Linda Thompson, whose stunning offering is a piano psalm that touches on escape and identity (‘you’re my way to blue... you’re not as faceless as you say you are...’), and echoes history (it’s called ‘Witchseason’, the name of Joe Boyd’s legendary production company, with whom Thompson was affiliated). ‘I got in touch with Linda's management and it turned out she had that song, which was recorded during some recent sessions in New York,’ says Adams of Thompson’s involvement. ‘She felt it was suitable for the record and it definitely sits beautifully in there.’
Did Adams give any musical or thematic remit to the contributors? ‘I did request for everyone, if possible, to consider writing a song on the subject of refugees,’ he says. ‘It wasn't easy, and not all of them could manage, but it all worked out nicely in the end. There's a nice mix of themes and moments of light-hearted relief in there – it helps the record move and breathe. And I was also really surprised at how well the tracks seemed to fit together considering my very disjointed approach,’ he adds. ‘The last thing I expected was to have a coherent and nicely merged body of work.’
It is exactly that, and more. It’s a lovely, significant compilation that celebrates myriad places and voices; that revels in the crossing of (musical and other) boundaries; that is warm, and welcoming, and feels like home.
Refugee is released on Tue 5 Jul via Brainfog Records.