McRae has took a step back and in doing so has scaled things down significantly. Although From The Lowlands isn’t quite at the same level his earlier work still finds itself. It’s definitely aligned closer to that era of his career, than it is his more recent efforts.
Tom’s voice is on fine form as is his songwriting, in fact the latter is stronger, sturdier and resonates deeper than it has done for some time. His fable-like lyricism and folksy metaphors make for sturdy vessels that accompany the records more minimal instrumentation. Speaking of which, the grandiose compositions have been toned down significantly, the nine songs that make up the album bare not much more than Tom’s voice, guitar and soft strings swooning underneath. The more stark construct of From The Lowlands see’s a colder, darker and melancholic tone tint the palette of the album. Im sure that he gets sick of making sad songs, but really he does sad so well. He even manages to pull hard on the audiences heart strings with a cover of The Beach Boy’s classic Sloop John B.
There is a brief interim in the form of “Fuck You, Prometheus”, which if your wondering adresses the god, not the Ridley Scott film. Although judging by some of the backlash said film received this year, that mistake could be easily forgiven. Prometheus quite literally takes us out of the studio and into McRae’s countryside location. Here we get a wonderful song and a lung full of fresh air, courtesy of wind, birds and all round rural ambience. More to the point it acts as refreshing palette cleaner for the eardrums and the heart.
It’s certainly understated and full of subtle nuances, but the quiet that McRae brings makes a lot more noise than he’s managed to produce for some time. From The Lowlands truly is welcome, warm and loveable return to form for one of the UK’s most overlooked singer songwriters.