Our Beloved Bubble has been a long time coming. Pete Roe has been a mainstay of the British folk scene for a while now. He will be known to many for having played with Laura Marling, Mumford & Sons and Ethan Johns. He can count Ryan Adams among his fans. And yet his debut full length has, for some reason or another, taken until now to arrive. The good news is that the bated breath of fans of Roe’s previous releases (2007’s Animals and 2012’s Circles) will be rewarded with a fine first album.
The time Pete Roe has had to work on his own material in the six or so years between Animals and the release of Our Beloved Bubble has not been filled with lengthy and meticulous recording sessions in expensive studios. When the time came, Pete and the other musicians on the album drove an old van up to Loch Linhe in Scotland and “recorded on the Wednesday, went cycling on Thursday and finished it on Friday. Came home and did a few overdubs.” And the result is an honesty and immediacy to the recordings that lend the album real charm, only enhanced by the use of real acoustic instrumentation and few studio tricks. There is the frequent sound of foot-tapping on many of the tracks; something most producers would not allow but it only acts to add authenticity, making you feel very much there with the players.
Though Pete Roe’s Wikipedia entry tells us that he is a tuner and repairer of harmoniums and reed organs, the songs here are largely underpinned by Roe’s beautiful guitar playing. He has been likened to Bert Jansch and is a sought after session musician, but his restraint as a player is as impressive as his doubtless virtuosity. Lyrically, themes range from friendships and pub studies to love songs like the stunning Creeper’s Crawl – worth the cost of the album alone. The more percussive opener, A Strange Kind Of Mystery In The Air, was a double A-side with Further into Midnight and while both are decent enough offerings, they pale in comparison to the more simply recorded pieces on Our Beloved Bubble, such as the aforementioned Creeper’s Crawl, the perfectly lovely reflection on friendship that is It’s Been Too Long and the simply gorgeous After Hours With Johnny Guitar.
There’s nothing earth-shatteringly inventive on Our Beloved Bubble but a collection of mostly great songs recorded in a beautifully simple fashion and if Pete Roe’s delivery and the intimacy of these recordings doesn’t have you by the end, there’s probably not much that will.