This is the third album from a young Scottish harpist working hard to popularise the harp.
Here she is accompanied by regular trio members Jenn Butterworth (guitar & vocals) and Euan Burton (double bass), plus special guest musicians Fraser Fifield (soprano saxophone), Angus Lyon (rhodes/accordion) and Signy Jakobsdottir (percussion).
Rachel’s fingering technique makes her plangent harp sound like a rippling African kora. The crystalline smoothness of her playing is exhibited to full effect on her unaccompanied performance of the traditional Gaelic air Alastair M’annsachd and on the hypnotically beautiful Galician tune Cancro Cru by Anxo Pintos.
There are a number of Rachel’s own compositions on the album, including the joyous, uplifting Eccentric’s Emporium with its laid-back loping rhythm and gloriously soaring soprano saxophone. The saxophone also joins the traditional Swedish set, to delightful, clarinet-like effect. And the Reels set really lifts when (guess what?) the saxophone comes in to accompany Jamie Smith’s File Under Biddley and Rachel Hair’s St James Lasses. The mellow texture and light jazzy rouches of the Rachel Hair trio really suits the addition of saxophone. Rachel, please, is there any chance of the saxophone becoming a permanent addition to the band, and the Trio turning Quartet?
I should also mention Jenn Butterworth’s pop/country-style vocals, which are brought into centre stage for Cyril Tawney’s Grey Funnel Line, Jenn’s own song Island and My Songbird from Emmylou Harris’s repertoire.
fRoots, Paul Matheson