The new film "Rob Roy" is a heroic epic in which neither hell nor high water, both of which figure in the script, can loosen the bonds of love between a fiercely idealistic 18th-Century Scotsman and his brave wife.
A fine, uplifting national legend it is, but one suspects that Justin Currie, the contemporary Scot who fronts the rock band Del Amitri, might not buy into it wholeheartedly.
The affairs of heart depicted on Del Amitri's albums aren't forced to withstand such pressures as figure in "Rob Roy," among them the machinations of greedy, scheming nobles and the outrages of a sociopathic English mercenary. In Currie's songs, love is almost always a weak, ill-fated alliance that crumbles from within, with no help required of external villains.
To offset the pessimistic nature of his material, Currie and his band-mates have typically exercised good pop-rock instincts, dressing his downcast stories in pleasant strains that can call to mind such folk- and R&B-influenced and pop-rock figures as early Rod Stewart, Graham Parker, Squeeze and Crowded House. Del Amitri's new album, "Twisted," goes for a tougher, more immediate sound than the two previous A&M releases that have won it a cult following in the United States, but a warm, acoustic side remains.
Currie's outlook is a tad less dismal this time around. In "Here and Now," he tries to persuade himself to enjoy a moment of romantic bliss, even if the relationship is probably doomed in the long run. "Roll to Me" is one of the band's brighter offerings, as the singer offers encouragement and a sympathetic shoulder to a heartbroken woman.
In "Driving With the Brakes On," we meet a couple trying to live through some not-quite-specified trial-- an abortion? a forced elopement?--that threatens to pull them apart. This time, though, Currie, at least rhetorically, imagines his modern narrator reaching for the sort of heroic overcoming achieved by Rob Roy MacGregor and his wife, Mary:
\o7 But unless the moon falls tonight, unless continents collide,
Nothing's gonna make me break from her side.\f7
Del Amitri's own story to date has no heroic chapters or dramatic breakthroughs but is one of solid music-making and persistence.
Currie, who plays bass and sings in a firm, smoky baritone, and guitarist Iain Harvie, a strong, intense soloist, began the band as teen-agers (the name Del Amitri is a nonsense phrase that rhymes with "Don Ameche"). They released their first single in 1983 and followed it with a 1985 debut album that went nowhere. But Del Amitri gamely toured the United States in 1986, soliciting room, board and bookings from its coterie of fans.
The groundwork paid off in 1990, when the album "Waking Hours" yielded several tracks that got album-rock play, including the Top 40 hit "Kiss This Thing Goodbye." The 1992 album, "Change Everything," produced another hit single, "Always the Last to Know."
"Twisted," with guitarist David Cummings, keyboards player Andy Alston and drummer Chris Sharrock rounding out the band, continues Del Amitri's tradition of assured navigation in the pop-rock mainstream.
* Who: Del Amitri.
* When: Tuesday at 8 p.m., with Melissa Ferrick and Fuzzpop.
* Where: Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano.
* Whereabouts: Take Interstate 5 to the San Juan Creek Road exit and turn left onto Camino Capistrano. The club is on the right, in the Esplanade Plaza.
* Wherewithal: $15.
* Where to call: (714) 496-8930.
MORE POP MUSIC:
One of pop's greatest satirical songwriters, Randy Newman, will be previewing material from his long-aborning theatrical version of Goethe's "Faust" as he plays Friday and Saturday at Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, with '60s folkie Buffy Sainte-Marie opening. (310) 916-8500.
Between surf music in the early '60s and punk in the late '70s, the Orange County rock scene came close to vegetating, as far as the outer world could tell. But Honk's periodic reunion shows are fun, varied, well-played reminders that the period wasn't a total void. The excellent Missiles of October open this bill of O.C. rock veterans at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Friday. (714) 496-8930.
John Renbourn, a masterful acoustic guitarist, helped marry the British folk tradition with rock 'n' roll in the '60s band Pentangle. Renbourn's solo career has taken him from the music of the English Renaissance to the blues of the Mississippi Delta. He plays Saturday at St. Michael and All Angels Church in Corona del Mar. (714) 662-3166.