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Doghouse Roses - We Are Made of Light

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 24 / 2 / 2020

Doghouse Roses - We Are Made of Light
Label: Yellowroom Music
Format: CD


Scottish duo Doghouse Roses' fourth album combines Iona Macdonald’s voice and Paul Tasker’s guitar to perfection

'We Are Made of Light’ is the fourth album from Glasgow duo Doghouse Roses. The duo has been making music together for fifteen years now and this latest collection of songs combines new and old songs, although all tracks are previously unrecorded. The duo of Iona Macdonald (lead vocals, guitar, piano) and Paul Tasker (vocals, guitars, banjo, bass, piano) are joined on about half of the songs by Neil Allan on drums with Rik Evans, Kate Miguda and Harriet Davidson adding strings. Luigi Pasquini also lends keyboards to one track. To get the obvious out of the way early; as we’ve mentioned before Iona Macdonald is a vocalist of some worth. Although she is no doubt tired of the comparison by now, we can only hope that she takes the mention of Sandy Denny once again as a compliment. It’s not to say Iona is imitating Denny’s voice. There are songs here when Iona Macdonald sounds like no other than Iona Macdonald but just one play of the opening track, ‘Low’, and it’s difficult not to think of Sandy Denny. Yep, Iona Macdonald is that good. Then there’s the guitar skills of Paul Tasker. It annoys this writer no end that certain guitarists are given front page covers and four-page articles in the music monthlies when we have such talent as Paul Tasker around. There are a small number of homegrown guitarists just now who are relatively unknown except for their hardcore followers and who deserve to be heard simply because they are so bloody good on their chosen instrument, and Paul Tasker is one. So, Doghouse Roses have the vocal and guitar talent and could cover songs and still add their own touch to make them their own, but both Macdonald and Tasker (who tend to write separately) are thoughtful, talented songwriters too. They address issues eloquently here and due to Macdonald’s crystal pure vocals it’s never a struggle to decipher the lyrics. The album features six songs from Tasker and five from Macdonald, so it’s split pretty evenly and because the duo is so obviously tuned musically it’s difficult to know who wrote a particular song without checking the credits. There is one cover here, Peter Green’s (Fleetwood Mac when they meant something) 'Oh Well (Part 1)'. It’s presented as an extension of the third track, ‘The Fermi Paradox’, which features the duo’s sound expanded by the musicians above although the song is dominated by Tasker’s clawhammer banjo. It’s a neat segue, as the listener hardly notices that ‘Oh Well’ has begun until Macdonald begins singing those familiar lyrics, which bring a smile to the face (“I can’t sing, I ain’t pretty and my legs are thin”). Green might have had some small claim to the can’t sing and ain’t pretty line but Macdonald? Having never seen either artist’s legs I can’t comment further… ‘Low, a topical Tasker composition, is one of the tracks fleshed out with strings, drums and piano; it’s a lovely melody and both Macdonald on lead vocals and Tasker on backing are vocally striking. It’s a fine way to open the album. The weeping strings behind MacDonald’s vocals during the latter part of the song are particularly affecting. Macdonald’s ‘One More for the Road’ follows and displays a more blues-hued side to the duo. Again those vocals are crystal clear and cut deep into the listener. Tasker’s guitar playing is excellent, The combination of these two talents is at its best here. Macdonald’s ‘First of April’ is an elegy for the eighteen oil workers lost in a helicopter crash in 2009 off the coast of Aberdeen. Macdonald’s voice is so affecting here transferring the hurt felt by all those whose lives were touched by the tragedy. Even so, it has to be said that the tracks which are complemented by the extra musicians do add not just texture but a whole different feel to the sound we have come to expect from Doghouse Roses. ‘Arsenic’ is one such song. Macdonald’s vocals sound tougher. It might also be due Tasker’s harmonica but there’s a definitive 60's band vibe to the song, not particularly from their homeland but more from across the pond. It certainly adds a new, unexpected element to their sound. ‘We Are Made of Light’ is Doghouse Roses' most diverse set of songs to date, Tasker’s ‘Elegy for a Seaside Town’ is another banjo-driven cut, detailing the decay of one of those once thriving coastal towns we used to spend a couple of weeks each summer in. The imagery is perfect. The song is in complete contrast to the following, darker tale of love and betrayal ‘The Reckoning’, the strings and percussion really bringing the detail in the lyrics to life. ‘We Are Made of Light’ is another excellent collection of songs from this Scottish duo who have taken a slightly different turn with this album; it works and bodes well for future releases.

Track Listing:-
1 Low
2 One More for the Road
3 The Fermi Paradox
4 Oh Well
5 First of April
6 Arsenic
7 Why We Fight
8 Rise & Fall
9 Years
10 Elegy for a Seaside Town
11 The Reckoning
12 All My Days

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Interview (2020)
Doghouse Roses - Interview
Malcolm Carter talks to Paul Tasker, the guitarist with Glasgow-based Americana/folk duo Doghouse Roses about their fourth album, ‘We Are Made of Light’.
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