The fantastic four power on in Rura’s new album

Four go on alone in Rura’s third album which, for the first time, is a wholly instrumental recording following the departure of singer Adam Holmes at the end of 2016.

It is a testament to the confidence the remaining band members have in their own musical ability to defer seeking a new vocalist either from within their own midst or elsewhere and, given this offering, they don’t need to be in too much of a hurry.

It was a bold decision and, if truth be told, the first play through didn’t particularly stop me in my tracks. As all the tracks were new, original tunes, there was no familiarity to nod along to and the whole thing initially felt slightly dark and mysterious.

However, as I sipped at my ubiquitous mug of coffee and hit replay, the gentle yet assertive voice of fiddler Jack Smedley’s grandfather, James Russell, again told us that he was “going home” and I started to listen with a keener ear.

By the time the track had finished with Steven Blake’s pipes delivering an uplifting, triumphant conclusion that I’d perhaps missed first time through, I knew that this was a keeper.

The sound is unmistakably Rura and the opening title track, In Praise of Home, immediately sets an ambient scene that seeps through the whole project, each track segueing neatly into the next. This is an unashamedly poignant recording with some highly evocative tune writing that at times had me tingling.

Day One celebrates the band’s origins and is a joyous number with some nice rhythm work from guitarist Adam Brown and David Foley’s bodhran, both of whose underlying contributions keep the album driving forward whilst presenting a backdrop for the tunes to bounce from.

I don’t think there is one of the nine tracks that I’d be minded to skip. The album feels like it has to be played and listened to in one sitting, though I particularly liked Catriona’s and I’ll Never Forget with Sheila Littlejohn’s compelling narrative.

The music is clever, serious and contemplative but still uplifting for all that, closing with the thought provoking, two parted Horizons which serves to showcase the collective skills of the band.

The result will not disappoint Rura fans old and new, though no doubt some die-hards might miss Adam’s dulcet tones cutting through the mix.

However, to be honest, I’m not sure that he would necessarily have added anything more to this album. It works and it works well. There is a growing movement seeking to redefine the sound of trad music without losing its integrity and with bands such as Rura in the vanguard the future is an exciting prospect.