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Songlines

Trì is Gaelic for three, and only three instruments – namely Rachel Hair’s harp, Jenn Butterworth’s guitar and the double bass of Cameron Maxwell – appear on this album, with Butterworth’s voice featuring on three songs. The musicians coax from their three instruments a range of sounds: the double bass, for instance, adds a drone like bagpipes only much deeper, more somber. The music is spare but it ranges widely, from the lively Manx jigs that open the album to ‘Roll on the Day’, a song, written by Allan Taylor for a friend who suffered badly from a lifetime working in factories filled with coal dust. There are strathspeys, jazzy marches and quicksteps – ‘The Duke of Fife’s Welcome to Deeside’ being a fine one – and a ballad from the Gaelic tradition.

The original pieces are musical responses to the events and characters of the musicians’ lives. The story that Hair tramped over a mountain in the snow to get to a ceilidh led to the jig ‘The False Walk’. ‘The Tea Towel Polka’ was inspired by her great grandfather who, living across the glen from her mother, would signal he needed her by hanging out a white tea towel. ‘Tune for Esme’ is a sad celebration, in memory of a harpist who died very young. The slight, the domestic and the tragic – all three find expression here.

Julian May, Songlines