The harpist Rachel Hair, weary of the angelic associations of her instrument, determine with her third album to reveal another side of its nature. Hence the title No More Wings, and this set of wicked tunes. They range widely – there are Breton ridees, a Quebecois waltz and ‘Alastair m’annsachd’, a gorgeous slow air from the Captain Simon Fraser Collection, a treasury of Scottish tunes, as well as material from the Swedish Gotlandstoner collection.
But this is by no means a collection of traditional music: as well as three of Hair’s own compositions there is ‘Cancro Cru’, a lovely tune by Anxo Pintos, from Galicia; ‘Harsh Feb Reels’ includes on by Scottish accordion maestro Phil Cunningham and ‘The Birthday Jigs’, which rousingly rounds off the album, features a melody by Breton guitarist Soig Siberil. Nor is it entirely instrumental. Guitarist Jenn Butterworth sings Jesse Winchester’s ‘ My Songbird’, a song of her own, ‘Island’, and Cyril Tawney’s ‘Grey Funnel Line’ (the sailor’s name for the Royal Navy).
Euan Burton’s fine double bass completes the trio. It is augmented here by Angus Lyon on accordion and Fraser Fifield’s saxophone. These instruments, as conventionally diabolical as the harp is angelic, work well in what is almost a jazz combo, the fluid squeezebox and round reediness of the sax complementing the plangent harp. I was surprised, though, given Hair’s desire to escape the angelic, by her recourse to wordless, dreamy vocals. A musically ironic heavenly choir, perhaps.
Songlines, Julian May