This is the welcome second album from a trio consisting of sparkling Scottish harp (Rachel Hair), guitar/vocals (Jenn Butterworth) and double bass (Cameron Maxwell). They perform bright, rhythmic arrangements of traditional tunes (Scottish, Irish, Manx and Norwegian) and contemporary, jazzy material composed by members of the band. The album has a well-judged balance of sequencing between old and new, gentle and lively, trad and jazz, instrumental and vocal. Of the three songs, the standout is Jenn Butterworth’s nicely understated rendition of Allan Taylor’s fine ballad Roll On The Day, about the human cost of working with coal dust.
Of the instrumental tracks, the standouts include the traditional tune set Tobar nan Cean/Kittys Gordon’s, which segues with thrilling effect from brooding Scottish strathspey to salmon-leeping Irish reel. My personal favourite track is Rachel Hair’s own Tune for Esme – an absorbing instrumental piece in memory of Esme Mcintyre (an inspring young harp player taken from the world much too soon). Rachel’s composition is all the more moving for not sounding like a lament. With its gentle rhythmic guitar pulse, and the cradling plangent warmth of the double bass, and crystalline harp arpeggios unfurling like a delicate flower bud in spring, the composition unfolds into a soaring, yearning harp melody full of discovered beauty, like the young life it commemorates.
Paul Matheson, fRoots