SALT HOUSE – Undersong (Make Believe MBR7CD)

UndersongThere have been changes in the Salt House with Jenny Sturgeon joining Ewan MacPherson and Lauren MacColl and having a big impact as songwriter and lead vocalist alongside Ewan. What hasn’t changed is their use of literature as well as traditional sources to inspire their music. Undersong is only their second album, five years on from their debut, but it has been worth the wait.

There are no guest musicians on Undersong and there really is no need for them with everyone playing at least instruments and my criticism of Lay Your Dark Low that some of the vocals weren’t strong enough has been dealt with. There is a lightness and openness in the music which makes this album very good listening. The opener, Jenny’s ‘Old Shoes’, is a perfect example. Starting with just voice and dancing guitar – I’m not sure if that’s Ewan or Jenny – it slowly builds up with Lauren’s strings and the addition of the other voices. ‘Turn Ye To Me’ comes from a 19th century collection with words by John Wilson but Jenny’s music makes it sound very modern and they repeat the technique with ‘The Sisters’ Revenge’ a gorgeous song which I was convinced was an original written in the traditional idiom. Half right: the words are traditional but the tune is Ewan’s.

‘Lay Your Dark Low’ wasn’t on the album with that title and I can’t say when Ewan wrote it but it is another stunning song. Jenny’s ‘Charmer’ presages Lauren’s setting of Robert Frost’s ‘The Road Not Taken’ and we’re back to the tradition with ‘I Sowed Some Seeds’ albeit somewhat adapted by Ewan. The title track which closes the album was written by all three band members and lives up to its name having a double meaning.

Undersong is a very fine album and comes highly recommended.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: https://www.salthousemusic.com/

‘Old Shoes’ – official video:

Salt House announce their new album

Salt House

Five years on from their debut, which announced a major new force on the scene, Scottish band Salt House release their new album Undersong. Produced by folk heavyweight Andy Bell (Martin Simpson, Songs of Separation, Jon Boden, Furrow Collective), the album instills a special sense of place, recorded in a restored Telford Church on the island of Berneray, Outer Hebrides.

Whether it’s setting old words to new melodies, re-working ancient ballads or writing their own – Salt House marry all their musical strands with a deep understanding for the British song tradition and an empathy for a story. Recent recruit, singer-songwriter Jenny Sturgeon joins multi-instrumentalist and songsmith Ewan MacPherson and violist and fiddler Lauren MacColl to weave stories of landscape, place and time.

The Telford church used to record the music was featured in Channel 4’s Restoration Man and is a special, hugely creative space, in a location which marries perfectly with the band’s love of the islands, the outdoors and of nature. Salt House are based in the Highlands and Northern Isles and the music for Undersong was created over the past year between the Cairngorms and rural Aberdeenshire.

The ten songs on the album include new settings of poetry, a reworking of a Scandinavian ballad, and six new songs from Jenny and Ewan’s own writing. The band deliver and arrange their material with an honesty and respect to the story, the words, and their lineage, whilst continuing to forge their own sound.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: www.salthousemusic.com

‘Old Shoes’ from the album Undersong:

Jenny Sturgeon records an EP for St Kilda

Jenny Sturgeon

The Wren And The Salt Air is a collection of songs and tunes by acclaimed Scottish singer-songwriter Jenny Sturgeon. It was written to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Scottish archipelago of St Kilda becoming a World Heritage Site for its natural features.

The Wren And The Salt Air, commissioned by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), comprises four new pieces of music inspired by the wildlife and human history of the archipelago. It is a spellbinding collection that effectively captures the unique atmosphere of St Kilda, Britain’s most remote island group.

In this EP Jenny explores the connections between birds and music, and woven into the tracks are her field recordings of the birds of St Kilda, as well as those of composer, author and ornithologist Magnus Robb (The Sound Approach).

Susan Bain, the St Kilda Site Manager for NTS, says of the project:

“The St Kildans drew inspiration from the landscape and wildlife around them in order to compose songs and melodies and I’m delighted that Jenny has continued this tradition. As a World Heritage Site St Kilda has value to all of humanity and music can connect and inspire peoples across the globe regardless of language or culture.”

The Wren And The Salt Air  features Jenny (vocals, shruti box, guitar), Jonny Hardie (fiddle, vocals), Pete MacCallum (guitar, vocals) and the distinctive calls of the St Kilda Wren, Leach’s Storm-Petrel and Black-Legged Kittiwake. This, the third studio recording from Jenny, was recorded over two days at Studio 1604 in Aberdeenshire.

St Kilda is an iconic group of islands with a wealth of human history and animal life, including a seabird population of around half a million birds, plus a unique sub-species of wren and mouse. St Kilda and its history have long captured the interest of people across the globe. It was as recently as 1930 that the last native St Kildans left the archipelago. Today, three organisations – NTS, Scottish Natural Heritage and the MoD – work in partnership to further a continuing programme of conservation and research on the islands.

Artist’s website: www.jennysturgeonmusic.com

Trailer video:

Jenny Sturgeon announces debut album

Jenny Sturgeon band

Inspired by her home region, the north east of Scotland, Jenny Sturgeon explores themes of nature, legend, myth and everyday human experience as she celebrates a community that is both local and global. The songs and the range of musical influences they incorporate weave a web of varied styles and feelings that ebb and flow through the album.

Jenny’s lyrics and the album arrangements fuse traditional Scottish folk styles with contemporary musical genres across a range of styles and places. The songs create a rich tapestry – from local history and folklore through key life moments – and as a biologist, nature creeps in to all of Jenny’s work which is reflected in the striking artwork.

With exceptional vocal clarity Jenny weaves melodies with her thoughtful and poignant lyrics. From energetic and spirited songs to delicate ballads and gritty laments, ‘From the skein’ captures the range, depth and imagery of Jenny’s songwriting. As pointed out by Charlie West, Director of Stonehaven Folk Festival, she is skilled at producing songs across a wide range of styles: “taking a simple melody and creating a haunting ballad, or writing compelling narrative songs which immediately engage with the audience“.

From The Skein features Jenny’s regular bandmates and the album co-arrangers – multi-instrumentalists Jonny Hardie (Old Blind Dogs), Davy Cattanach (Catford) and Grant Anderson (Brothers Reid). Special guests include Fraser Fifield on whistle and saxophone, Brian McAlpine on accordion and cello player Aongus Mac Amhlaigh. Guest vocalists include Indian Carnatic singer Rahul K Ravindran and Gaelic singer Ana Maia MacLellan. The album was produced by accomplished piano player and songwriter Simon Gall (Salsa Celtica) with whom Jenny worked on the critically-acclaimed 2015 Clype album.

The album opens with ‘Maiden Stone’, one of several songs on the album inspired by regional folklore. This track features the distinctive low whistle of Fraser Fifield, whose melody weaves around the vocals and the driving bass line, building tension and giving the song the timeless feel of an old ballad first sung hundreds of years ago.

The breadth of inspiration in the album is apparent in the songs ‘Running Free’ and ‘Honest Man’. ‘Running Free’ is a track borrowing from folk as well as drum and bass genres to create an uplifting and energising song, featuring Brian McAlpine on accordion and punchy rhythmic instrumentation on guitar and bass. The delicate and light ‘Honest Man’ has a dream like quality with lush vocal harmonies and a rolling tenor guitar melody.

Other tracks such as ‘Linton’ highlight Jenny’s interest in local history. This song tells the tale of the Cutty Sark and her designer Hercules Linton – who hailed from Aberdeenshire. The steady rhythm and Rahul Ravindran’s thrilling improvised melody create a light and fluid song which dances over the guitar and percussion as a boat over water.

The power and emotion of Jenny’s voice and lyrics are clear in the only unaccompanied track on the album – the politically driven song ‘Judgement’ – as well as in ‘Cùlan’ which tells a variation on the tale of the popular traditional song ‘the cruel sister’. With Gaelic translation and delicate harmonies from Ana Maia MacLellan this track is hauntingly beautiful.

From The Skein is testimony to Jenny’s songwriting and storytelling ability as well as to the creativity of the musicians. It was born out of a love of folk music and the joy of creating new compositions and has produced a varied, vibrant and inspiring album.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: www.jennysturgeonmusic.com

‘The Greenwood Side’ live, featuring Fraser Fifield:

Clype announce debut album

Clype

Clype is the much-anticipated self-titled debut album from one of Scotland’s newest and most dynamic duos. Hailing from the North East, Clype is a stripped-back experiment in fusing sounds and styles from around the globe. The musicians borrow from Scottish folk traditions as well as from the rhythms of Latin America and harmonic ideas of jazz to create a new, inimitable sound.

The duo, which comprises pianist and singer-songwriter Simon Gall of Salsa Celtica and Old Blind Dogs fiddler Jonny Hardie, has produced an exciting and challenging album filled with fresh-sounding melody lines, thought-provoking lyrics and elegant arrangements which has garnered prestigious support. Speaking about the music the legendary singer-songwriter Richard Thompson said,

 “I urge you to give a listen to Clype. This is music firmly rooted in the North East of Scotland, but which pulls in influences from all over the world. Simon Gall and Jonny Hardie create music which is eclectic, original, accomplished and challenging.”

The mood of the album is established in the introduction of the first song ‘The Brush to Paint Us All’; a song which was inspired by the harmonic ideas of Bill Evans, the melodic heritage of Scottish folk music and the academic ideas of Edward Said.

Other tracks such as ‘Down With May’ more clearly highlight Clype’s interest in Latin America – in particular Colombia’s Pacific coast. This song flits between feels and time signatures recalling the rhythmic traditions of Afro-Colombia while further exploring Scottish folk sensibilities.

‘Now My Home’ features the unmistakable low whistle of Ross Ainslie. The weaving melody is complimented by an exciting whistle solo which lifts the track to its peak before settling back into the tasteful piano groove.

The beautiful voice of guest singer-songwriter Jenny Sturgeon can be heard in her self-penned track ‘Fair Drawin’ In’. Its soaring melody is underpinned by a repetitive pedal in the piano and shruti box giving the song a distinctive and lush harmonic bed upon which to dance. Jenny also co-writes and sings on the reflective ‘Red Tide’.

The album is deep and mature and is a testimony to the creativity of the musicians. It was born out of a profound love for the folk music of the world and has masterfully pulled some of them together to create a vibrant, enduring and inspiring album.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: http://www.clypemusic.com/

Watch the promotional video: