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Urban folklorists

By Deacon Blue

Columbia Records: 1988

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This review first appeared in the September 9, 1988 issue of the San Diego Evening Tribune.

This Scottish sextet takes its name from an old Steely Dan song, but its music is closer to a cross between Dire Straits and Dexy's Midnight Runners.

Like Steely Dan, though, (and even more like Sade) Deacon Blue's music is composed of carefully choreographed, well thought-out compositions of deep texture and complexity. But their harmonies and rhythms borrow heavily borrow much from European folk traditions, much like Dexy's.

And as with Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler, Deacon Blue vocalist Ricky Ross' lyrics tell a full story; a tale to teach or perhaps just to shed light on a previously ignored dark alley of human existence. Ross is, in fact, a folklorist of the first order. "Loaded," for instance, is about alcoholism, and not just the usual condemnation, but a personal look at the ways in which alcoholics hide in their daydreams and refuse to face reality. Rather than lecturing on the damage of too much drink, Ross tells of the ultimate level of loss that comes from hiding from one's own life.

The compositions are likewise of a high order. Broad, sweeping melodies and multi-layered harmonies build to a climax time and again, so that listening to "Raintown" is simultaneously uplifting and draining, inspiring and exhausting.