Having recently taken up the harp, I was thrilled to have this new release from the Rachel Hair Trio for review. From the slick, minimalist artwork to the refreshing mix of traditional and original compositions, it is clear that this ensemble are delivering a very modern take on one of Scotland’s most traditional instruments.
As well as her many performing commitments, Rachel is also a highly respected teacher, including making a monthly pilgrimage to the Isle of Man, referenced in the opening track of the album. This is a strong start with an excellent balance between the instruments and a classy arrangement. From the Isle of Man to Scotland and an excellent arrangement of The Duke of Fife’s Welcome to Deeside, written by the great James Scott Skinner. Alongside the more traditional styles is also the jazz infused The Marching Gibbon from the pen of jazz pianist Tom Gibbs. The album closes with a Norwegian inspired set, showcasing beautifully Rachel’s technical mastery of the harp as well as the Trio’s collective musicality.
While this is predominantly an instrumental album, there are also three vocal tracks featuring the voice of guitarist Jenn Butterworth. The first, Angels, is a self-penned offering with incredibly moving lyrics that are beautifully enhanced by the accompaniment. Roll on the Day is another contemporary song, this time by Allan Taylor. My personal favourite is the translation of a Gaelic song, My Darling Fair One. This song suits Jenn’s voice so well and, again, the arrangement works well with the vocals.
Overall, this is an excellent album, showcasing the Trio’s well developed live sound, solid ensemble and clear musical direction.
Nicky Pound, Fatea