Scottish-Irish musician Rachel Hair is a superb player of the clarsach, the traditional Scottish harp, and this debut album is hugely welcome. In fact, it would be difficult to find another Celtic music debut album of such consistent quality and beauty. The 19 tunes over 11 tracks consist of seven Scottish and Irish traditional tunes, six of Rachel’s own compositions and six by others.
From the lively opening track “Castle Grant” to the joyful concluding “Charmed,” Rachel’s playing is fresh and appealing. She creates a clean and expansive sound while exploring every nuance of the instrument. “Da Day Dawn” holds your attention for almost nine minutes, moving from a lovely traditional Shetland tune welcoming in the New Year to Gordon Gunn’s excellent “Gillian’s Waltz.” The latter features rich piano accompaniment from Douglas Millar as also heard on two other tracks. The title track introduces the first of Rachel’s distinctively contemporary and original compositions, which also manage to sit well with the traditional tunes on the album.
One of the album’s highlights is Rachel’s “Marie’s Tune,” which is a plaintive number in memory of her Irish grandmother. It is a master stroke to follow this in the same track with the traditional Irish polka “Art O’Keefe’s,” which is such a celebration of life. “Cancro Cru” by the Asturian fiddler Anxo Pintos suits her playing well given the similar types of subtleties to her own compositions. Peter Webster plays flute on “Chandni Chowk,” a typically varied track with both a reel and a jig together with Rachel’s fine composition about a walk through a market in Old Delhi.
The CD is excellently packaged with attractive photographs and informative notes. Sit back at the end of a busy day and lose yourself in this gorgeous music!
Andy Jurgis, www.rambles.net