TO CALL Emma Pollock a well-kept secret in Scottish music is doing a disservice to someone who earned cult success and a Mercury Prize nomination as a member of the Delgados in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Emma Pollock | Rating: **** | Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh
Yet it’s only this year, with her third solo album in nine years In Search of Harperfield, that she’s begun to earn wider acclaim beyond her home country under her own name.
That’s unsurprising, because the record itself is vibrant and memorable. Amidst jokes about her tendency to talk too much onstage and a quickly quelled reminiscence on how she misses the Delgados, her story of the record’s origins was honest and affecting. She lost her mother a year ago, and the album is based on trying to learn about her parents as people, because “it’s difficult to understand them as anything but parents”. Can’t Keep a Secret tells of what families keep from one another, making a feature of the gorgeous, folksy capabilities of Pollock’s voice, while on Don’t Make Me Wait she sounds more raw, almost transported back to her teenage years.
Accompanied by a three-piece band for the most part (aside from on Monster in the Pack, with Jamie Savage standing in for the indisposed RM Hubbert on acoustic guitar accompaniment, and the fragile solo take on Dark Skies), Pollock showed off her natural facility for songwriting which is both affecting and individual, from the distinctive, insistent metronome beat of Red Orange Green to Parks & Recreation’s sharp pop chorus. Writing songs, said Pollock at one point, is about trying to capture an atmosphere; “like coming out of a nightmare and you don’t know what it was about but you know how it felt.” There were only sweet dreams here.