Andrew Pearson & The Riflebirds
There’ll Be Flowers Come The Spring
A performance at the Barron Theatre last Friday heralded the impending release of St Andrews student and songwriter Andrew Pearson’s new album. There’ll be Flowers Come the Spring is Pearson’s first album to feature the eclectic trio of clarinettist Tilly Rossetti, accordionist Stefan Maurice and bass guitarist Calum West, who are better known as Pearson’s backing band The Riflebirds.
Released on the 18th of February, There’ll be Flowers Come the Spring follows Pearson’s previous solo efforts A Road Unsuited and Ghosting. There is, from the new accompaniment, a wholly different sound to this record. Pearson’s contemplative vocals are now wrapped in the soothing, lilting harmonies, of Rossetti’s clarinet, Maurice’s accordion, and West’s bass guitar, and are accompanied at times by a violin, backing vocals, a piano, a harmonica, and a ukulele.
The album introduces itself with a marriage of bird sounds and white noise. A lone guitar is plucked plaintively, as the pastoral comfort of the scene comes into focus. Pearson first words assure the listener that “While nothing grows out the Adriatic, there’ll be flowers come the spring.” The mood of the album has been set in floral whimsy.
‘The Driftwood Song’ carries this mood, and embalms it with a nautical theme. The folky, jaunty lyrics help fire the delightful illusion that Pearson is sitting in his flannels on deck, perhaps on an upturned biscuit barrel, as he delivers them. A languorous accordion and a wistful harmonica complete the picture.
There are times, as with the tracks ‘Ribbons’ and ‘Hold Hands Among the Atoms’, when the album gets perhaps a little too comfortable, content to frame Pearson’s lyrics in nice harmonies and soft, plodding basslines. Elsewhere, the album has moments of weakness. ‘Suspended in Air, Suspended in Time’ tested Pearson’s vocal range to its limit and maybe a little beyond. Pearson has a great voice, but it is a voice that shouldn’t go near anything that even hints at being a ballad. ‘Suspended…’ was by no means an unpleasant listen, but it felt a shade too triumphant, as though it had been written at a different place and time. Elsewhere in the album, a pithy line here or there jarred a little with the pensive, careful lyricism that predominates, while some of the arrangements felt like they could have been gentler, with the intricate pluckings of Pearson’s guitar rendered barely audible through the rich melodies of the other instruments.
That having been said, There’ll be Flowers has moments of real triumph. ‘My Heart Floats Like Silk’ is well arranged, making use of the extra instruments to great effect. Elsewhere, in the excellent ‘One Art (Fingerprints)’ the moment when the dormant violin and viola spring into action and rise beyond the solo guitar, is wonderfully exhilarating, giving a sense of hope and power. The album as a whole, which can seem flat at moments, would have benefitted from the careful placement of more moments like these. Pearson’s choice to end not with the cacophony that heralds the end of ‘Hold Hands Among the Atoms’ but with the slightly trite ‘Late’ seems an odd decision at first. However, the latter, picked presumably for lyrical reasons gives the album a cyclical air, as spring returns, and accordingly rounds off the album nicely
Enough has already been said about Pearson’s remarkable lyrical dexterity. This album is no different to his previous efforts in that respect. The elegance of Pearson’s lyrics make them a real delight to absorb and contemplate, as he leads you through his haunts and feelings and imaginings. The accompaniment of The Riflebirds, provides a rich, harmonising layer to the tracks that ebbs and flows with the temperaments of the lyrics. This is an album of impossible maturity and invention from such a young group, and promises as much for the future as it asks from the coming of Spring.