Highly recommended for fans of Van Morrison and Tom Waits, The Water of Leith offers an insight into Wilson’s own journey of self-discovery, and is subsequently rife with tales of regret and his complicated relationship with his Scottish homeland.
In his opening track ‘Over the Fields’, in which we travel with Ross on his return to his celtic birthplace, there is a definite sense of urgency; a suggestion that the song was hurriedly written in the back seat of a car while he journeyed home. Its vibrancy creates the image of a traveller that is exhausted, but not yet defeated.
Simple piano chords and chorus melodies interlace with one another superbly to form a alluring backdrop to the song, which is soon embellished by the stunning vocals of Beth Neilson Chapman. Alongside Wilson, her attractive sound becomes the dominating theme of the opening track; their touching lyrics guide us through the multiple layers of musical styles. The governing theme of emotional development is introduced sensitively by what is truly an evocative opening track.
The conveyance of frustration is powerful, almost palpable for listener, in later tracks ‘Bluebell’ and ‘Sandaig’. With each piece guided by lyrics that depict evocative renditions of heartbreak and loss, listeners are bound to finish each track feeling desperate for a Hollywood ending.What dictates the marvelousness of these pieces is that they refuse to provide a fairytale resolution: the listener must face an authentic depiction of love – an auditory experience that is challenging, but also cathartic.
This cleansing effect extends to single release ‘Love is…’: an instant classic that enters through the ear and into the heart of listeners whose love has been placed under strife. ‘Ebb and Flow’, conversely, delivers the brief intermission of upbeat optimism that is required for such an emotionally overwhelming album. Fuelled by cheerful vibes and tokens of wisdom, it is infectiously fun and offers a break of comic relief from what is overall – both socially and thematically – a sincere and harrowing sequence of tracks.
Along with its instrumental predecessor ‘The Water’, ‘To The Shore’ does little to contribute anything new or exciting to the idea of self-discovery and reflection that governs the album. Each song simply overstates the topics of journeying and homecoming, two themes that have are examined sufficiently in preceding tracks.
Reaching up to 6 minutes in its duration, ‘To The Shore’ borders on the melodramatic, overdone side of powerful ballads, an error that can be attributed to its lengthy outro; an issue that Wilson has managed to avoid inflicting on the other tracks of the album.
The fusion of perfect harmonies, piano melodies and violin orchestras that weaves throughout The Water of Leith can be described as nothing less than glorious; the sequence could easily be used to heighten the climatic crises that conclude immersive drama movies.
In spite of the aforementioned disappointment that plagues a small number of its auditory components, the resounding impact of the album on this listener is positive: it offers an eloquent portrayal of the ways in which where we come from us shape our identities.