Mid-November, with a gale flinging the leaves against the window and a darkening sky that seems to promise eternal winter: it's the perfect time to be listening to Home, a second album from Edinburgh singer Rosie Nimmo.
Not because Nimmo's lyrics are relentlessly bleak and introspective – although they have their moments – but because despite a sheen of melancholy, little beacons of hope, comfort and warm humanity flicker across her complex vision of life's travails. Just when you think the darkness is closing in for good, there's a nip of something strong and reviving to pick you up and give you a wry laugh.
"The secret's to enjoy the view If you can enjoy the people too,"
Nimmo sings with cool irony in the opening track, "Never go Back". And there's the rub, of course, because it's people who tend to get in the way. Nature can be a more rewarding companion. Songs like "Moonglow Music" and the title track are like little oases in a landscape of experience that in other numbers – the desolate "Life Can Pin You to the Wall" and "Low Blue Way" with its aching harmonica (a Nimmo speciality) – is often obscured by mist.
"The End" is a frank and simple account of leaving things too late in a relationship. Perhaps, as Nimmo suggests in "Listen to Your Own Voice", it's ultimately best to be accountable to your own instincts. That way lies inner strength.
This is a wise collection of songs that faces up to some rough realities, not least in the unsettling, driven "Timeclock", a sensory exploration of life's rapid passage that really works its way under your skin. But there are moments of joy in the infantile escapism of "Being a Child Again (in the Snow)", and even the sad tale of "Little Bird" ends on a note of fragile hope.
Nimmo's style veers between soft, gentle folk and an edgier, almost bluesy quality that keeps you guessing where the mood will lead her. There is some exemplary, unfussy accompaniment from, among others, producer Marc (Hobotalk) Pilley on guitar, keyboard player Ali Petrie (the much-neglected Hammon organ comes into its own on several tracks) and fiddler Mairi Campbell.
Subtle, understated and sure-footed, Home is an intelligent, rewarding piece of work full of quirky hooks and rhymes that send your thoughts spinning off in all kinds of unexpected directions.