Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Chemikal Underground Releases Fruit Tree Foundation Album

I've made no attempt to hide my brushes with mental health treatment in my twenties.

I don't think I should have to.

And when I look back on those periods in my life, notably my hospitalization for self-harm when I was 20, I see that period as very dramatic, the stuff of a film.

That's the reaction I get when I tell people the story or relate some incidents from that era.

However, when I remember being admitted, I vividly recall two things: 1) my situation was not that severe. Still, I required treatment and benefited greatly from it. And, 2) I became aware immediately that I was not alone.

Hopefully, in the last 24 years, things have changed and there's an awareness of mental health and, hopefully, less of a stigma about discussing treatment and recovery.

Until we get to a world where seeking mental health care involves as little stigma as going to the dentist, I can guess that there are millions here and in the U.K. who probably feel alone when discussing these issues.

And a new benefit -- not going to use the word "charity" with this one -- album from Scotland's Chemikal Underground is out with a noble goal of helping to relieve that stigma in the U.K. and Scotland.

First Edition, from The Fruit Tree Foundation, is out on 27 June from Chemikal Underground. The record involves a number of musicians, including:

James Graham of The Twilight Sad, Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit, Rod Jones of Idlewild, Jill O’Sullivan of Sparrow and the Workshop, Emma Pollock of The Delgados and her own solo career, as well as Karine Polwart, Jenny Reeve, Alasdair Roberts and James Yorkston.

Some highlights of the record include:

"Forgotten Anniversary", from Emma Pollock, ex-Delgado and formidable solo artist, and James Yorkston, rocks like some weird mix of a hyper-fast Tindersticks, early Velvet Underground, and Emma's own Delgados -- think the early stuff.

"If you're not Katie Price, or k.d. lang..." sings Yorkston like a drunken version of a Britpop-era vocalist.

The tune is a scorcher and it leads into another good folk/rock one: "Favourite Son" from Jill O'Sullivan, James Graham, and Emma Pollock.

"I Forgot The Fall" by Rod Jones and Scott Hutchinson is like Dinosaur Jr., or Rod Jones' own Idlewild, with a Manzanera-like solo from Jones, presumably, there near the end as the drums slam the song to a conclusion.

Jill O'Sullivan and Rod Jones bring us the Americana vibe of "Dead Leaves And A Swollen Leg" which leads into another Emma Pollock monster of a cut.

"Singing For Strangers" is the reason to buy this album, besides the charity angle. Emma Pollock opens the song sounding like Robert Plant on that Led Zep reunion live album with the Middle Eastern instrumentation. Her vocals are just massively enjoyable here.

Scott Hutchinson joins in and the song soars in another direction, sounding now hopeful like a Bono-less mid-1980s U2.

The song is a stunner and rivals the best work Emma Pollock did with The Delgados, frankly.

"All Gone But One" opens with a guitar riff like something off the first Idlewild record, Rod Jones frantically strumming as those drums rock behind him, with James Graham joining the vocals.

Rod Jones and Alasdair Roberts provide another stomper in the decidedly Richard Thompson-like "The Untrue Womb". The guitar work by Jones here is magnificent, Page-like one moment, wailing like Gary Moore the next.

Emma Pollock is back on the lovely "Hired Help" with Rod Jones. Opening with a vaguely countryish twang -- like Dave Dudley's "Six Days On The Road" or something -- the song rambles and crackles forward with Jones leading on the chorus. Like most of the Emma Pollock tracks on this record, there's a hint of her best work with The Delgados but less formality, for lack of a better word. It's more Peloton than anything else.

The takeaway point from my rambling review of First Edition from The Fruit Tree Foundation is that this is nothing like a benefit album. There's little dour here and, instead, you'll find some of the best musicians active in Scotland today.

Important background information from the press release on this album:
The Fruit Tree Foundation is a new independent project in Scotland led by musicians Rod Jones and Emma Pollock in partnership with The Mental Health Foundation, Scottish Wave of Change and Breathing Space Scotland. The project has grown from the annual Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival (1-2 October 2010) and aims to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing and challenge perceptions of mental health problems by creating great art.

This ambitious new project sees some of Scotland’s finest and most exciting artists from the indie and folk music scene come together to explore the relationship between creativity and mental health by writing and producing a brand new album; featuring unique pairings and one-off collaborations between some of our most intriguing song-writers.

The album was exclusively available at two special concerts in Edinburgh and Glasgow last year and is now being released internationally by Glasgow’s seminal record label, Chemikal Underground and will be available to buy for the first time since the concerts in October last year.

The Fruit Tree Foundation partners include The Mental Health Foundation, Scottish Wave of Change, and Breathing Space Scotland with additional funding support from Awards For All and Merchants House.

The Mental Health Foundation is a leading UK mental health charity that conducts robust research, provides practical solutions to help everyone lead mentally healthier lives, and works to raise public awareness and improve mental health services for the entire population. The Foundation is proud of the vital role it plays in hosting, developing and managing the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival and the Fruit Tree Foundation.

A Scottish Wave of Change is part of the Cultural Olympiad – about the future, stories and change. It is a mass imagination project, opening up and democratising the future. The project uses the Olympic and Paralympic values to begin an exploration of the Scotland of the future people would like and how we go about achieving it.

Breathing Space is a free, confidential phone and web based service for people experiencing low mood or depression in Scotland. We are here in times of difficulty to provide a safe and supportive space by listening, offering advice and information. It is our belief and hope that by empowering people, they have the resources to recover.

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