'SwingS and ROundabOuts'

“I don’t want to sing these songs to make people sad and miserable
but more because I want to take the sadness out of people.”
Rory.

18 new soulful songs,
fresh, full of richness and depth,

diverse rhythms and flavours.

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Swings and Roundabouts Review

Folk Roots.

The reverse sleeve photograph depicts the artist wearing a high visibility fluorescent yellow jacket bearing the word ‘INSECURITY’. It’s a wry reflection on the state of mind that appears to have driven Mcleod to record a set of songs of such disarming honesty, heart-felt, soul-bearing and pained vulnerability.

Break-up records have a long and checkered history in popular music, but through the candid scattergun lyricism of ‘Your Mummy And I’ to ‘Moment Of Weakness’, ‘If You Take The Words Of Others You’ve Heard’, ‘I Shouldn’t Be Here Without You’ and ‘I’m Married’, we get the full range of emotions and scenarios engendered by the fall-out….betrayal, gossip, despair, loneliness, regret, guilt, retribution…. Confronted by such a brutally bruised and exposed heart, I’d normally be fleeing for the hills- and there are occasional moments when you think –‘too much information’-but this is Rory McLeod, spraying killer words with such wide-eyed intensity it’s impossible not to be gripped by the unfolding stories, even when he enters even darker territory still, as he directly addresses grief on ‘Mel, Don’t Go’- about the death of Australian singer Melanie Shanahan-and confronting everybody’s ultimate fear on ‘I’m Not Ready To Die’, dedicated to the late Alistair Hulett.

Yet the odd thing is that, for all the sense of tragedy and hurt revealed in such vivid detail, it’s not a depressing album. Musically in fact, it’s refreshingly uplifting, wrapping his irresistible storytelling in some inspired arrangements. The forlorn message of ‘I Just Want To Be Loved’ is transformed into a sophisticated country rocker by BJ Cole’s pedal steel; Diego Laverde Rojas delicious Columbian string harp and Bob Morgan’s mesmerising clarinet lift the issues about the addictive intoxication of fame explored on  ‘Applause’; the loaded ‘I’m Married’ is couched in a jaunty fairground mood; soaring clarinet and sax abound in a dazzling array of styles, while McLeod himself spreads light at all turns with the bushy tailed urgency he invests in everything he does. One of the most arresting tracks is the brilliant harmonica-led instrumental ‘Lassoing The Bees’.

He never takes easy options but breezes airily through the difficult ones, whether it’s the suicide of a friend, adapting Loudon Wainwright’s ‘Your Mother And I’, or –perhaps most daringly of all- adopting the persona of a teenage mother who abandons her baby on ‘When You Were Born. Remarkable.

Colin Irwin.

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