RUTH ANGELL – Hlywing (Talking Elephant TECD484)

HylwingRuth Angell is a multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter who has performed with people such as Ashley Hutchings and Rufus Wainwright.  Not before time she’s released her début solo album, Hlywing, and it’s a delight.  Nine of the ten tracks are written by Ruth, with the final one being Joni Mitchell’s ‘Magdalene Laundries’.

What drew me in to this album is the variety of music on display, with common themes rather than a concept, featuring landscape, home, family and shelter.  Hlywing means shelter in Medieval English and is pronounced ‘Huh – lee – wing – uh, just so you know. [Thanks, Tony – Editor.]

There are some beautiful songs and ‘The Boathouse’ demonstrates how musicians can create something from the tiniest detail.  Having just returned from the Canary islands with her son they found themselves in typically Irish weather.  He said “It’s not like Gran Canaria, is it?”  Most of us would have agreed and headed for somewhere warm and dry, but Ruth turned it into a song and a very good one it is too.

There are two poems, ‘The Shipyard Fairy’ and ‘No Roses’, beautifully set to music. ‘The Shipyard Fairy’ has a mainly simple piano accompaniment whilst ‘No Roses’ uses more instruments but it’s the words that shine. Ruth has a wonderful voice, which works so well as the songs are written to suit it. ‘No Roses’ has a different feel, the electrics give a prog feel to a song about Ruth’s local pub when she was younger, that sounds like a real pub where you order a lager at your own risk and the locals gave you one look and then ignore you.

Ruth isn’t afraid to dip into social politics with ‘Little Boy Blue’ telling the story of the young Syrian boy drowned in the Mediterranean, an image we all remember, and ‘Magdalene Laundries’ a Joni Mitchell cover where what should have been a refuge became a place of abuse.

As well as being a multi-instrumentalist in her own right Ruth has called on a number of musicians to perform on the album across a wide range including keys, synths, percussion and strings, so the album has any number of layers giving a very rich sound. There’s lots to like on this album and one thing I appreciated was the lyric book containing not just the words but the stories behind the songs, even though you do need good eyesight to read them.  The range of songs is good, a wonderful showcase of Ruth’s talent and we see an artist who’s establishing a reputation in her own right.  I thoroughly recommend this album.  Hlywing was released on 3rd February and is available at

Tony Birch

Artist’s website:

‘Castle On The Hill’ – official video:

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