“Lamentations” – Rupert Wates

5 stars (out of 5)

1

One voice, one guitar; it can be that simple, but only if the songwriting, the playing and the voice are good enough. You’re in luck here because “Lamentations” is a set of twelve superb songs by an internationally-renowned writer, who plays acoustic guitar with flair, superb technique and finesse and has a rich and mellow voice that works perfectly for the folk troubadour style of this album. Rupert Wates takes the simplicity a stage further here – the twelve songs on “Lamentations” were recorded in one evening with no overdubs, creating the warmth of a live gig recorded faithfully at studio quality. It’s a challenge to create variety across twelve songs without any band arrangements, harmonies or studio trickery but Rupert Wates aces it with “Lamentations”.

“Lamentations” isn’t a concept album as such, but there are themes that run through the whole piece. The opening song, “The Carnival Waltz”, weaves in the first theme of the circle of life in the form of the carnival carousel endlessly repeating the same cycle with different riders. It’s life; some of us are on the way in and some are on the way out, some of us are going up and some are going down. The guitar backing is finger-picked in 3/4 time, which captures the motion of the carousel perfectly and it demonstrates the way Rupert creates intricate rhythms with his picking styles throughout the album. The circle of life theme is reinforced with songs representing the various phases of life, including birth, which feeds into the theme of songs for Rupert’s new son, Gabriel, passing on the lessons of experience.

Two end-of -life songs towards the end of the of the album demonstrate the versatility of Rupert’s playing. Most of the album is finger-picked, but the lament “Now The Harvest” is strummed, or hit, to imitate the rhythm of a funeral march; it’s a dirge in the true meaning of the word. “Farewell and Adieu” is a fairly simple strummed rhythm pattern backing a poignant farewell to old friends that will never be seen again. “Waiting for a Friend of Mine” backs up the vocal with picked arpeggios in 6/8 time that give a nod in the direction of “House of the Rising Sun” while the intricately-picked “Lamentations” might yet be an epitaph for Donald Trump; who knows?

The two songs written for his new son, “From Where You Are” and “And You Shall Have the World”, both feature master-class finger-picking. The first imagines the jumble of impressions meeting the newborn and a promise to help and support, while the second is an exhortation to avoid materialism and focus on the things that make you happy. I could go on, but I’d really like you to check this out for yourself.

Taking the most basic elements in the performer’s toolkit, one voice and one instrument, Rupert Wates has created an album that fizzes with acoustic guitar mastery and beautifully-crafted songs. Check out some of the individual links here or even the entire album. It’s pure class.

“Lamentations” is released in the UK on Friday December 4th 2020 on Bite Music (BR12115).