JOSIE DUNCAN & PABLO LAFUENTE – The Morning Tempest (Own Label JDP2018CD)

The Morning TempestThe Morning Tempest, the debut album from Josie Duncan and Pablo Lafuente follows on from their 2016 EP, Half Of What You See. Arising, as is increasingly the case these days, from out of a successful crowdfunding campaign, it serves to illustrate the enormous amount of interest in this duo at the moment.

There’s a wonderful lightness of touch all over this album. Lafuente’s playing style carries traces of his native Spain in its delicacy, whilst Duncan has a voice of pure clarity, tipped with that softly rolling Lewis accent. The live-recorded ‘Uamh An Oìr’ (“Cave Of Gold”), illustrates just how well Lafuente’s sensitive, fluid guitar supports the gentle strength of Duncan’s vocal. There’s a subtle interplay of the other band members and guest artists across the remaining tracks as they deliver admirably well-judged and uncluttered support: all the parts kept crisply audible in the production.

Even the more well-known traditional songs, like opener ‘The Night Visiting Song’ (the source of the album’s title), Child ballad ‘King Orfeo’, and ‘He Called For A Candle’ are refreshed here by brisk and lively renditions. There’s strong emphasis on rhythm, peaking with the astonishing vocal control and rapid-fire agility of final song ‘Potato Puirt’. This mash-up of elegies to the humble spud also contains an “Easter egg” – a two-minute long lacuna that culminates in an uncredited gem just before the 6 ½ minute mark. It’s an atmospheric take on ‘The Fisherman’s Lassie’ and, with its overlay of laughter and synth-like percussion, it’s the most “produced” sounding song here, contrasting markedly with what’s gone before.

‘He Fades Away’, Alistair Hulett’s cutting polemic, becomes a real show-stopper here. Duncan’s youthful vocals might suggest a break-up song with the opening lines, “There’s a man in my bed, I used to love him, His kisses used to take my breath away”, but that only makes the full impact of this dying man, ruined by mining and unlikely to live to see any compensation, all the more crushing, “They never told him the cost of bringing home his weekly pay”. The muted flugelhorn and cello accompaniment follow on the deceptive simplicity of the lyrics to pack a real emotional gut-wallop.

Canadian song ‘Kerosene Light’ somehow manages to be both sentimental and clear-eyed, its nostalgia tempered with the harshness of the life it celebrates in lyrics like “sometimes love bloomed and sometimes dreams died by the glow of the kerosene light”.

Duncan’s own song, ‘The Great Escape’ is complemented beautifully by Colin Macleod’s tender vocal and indicates that she’s a more than capable songwriter on her own account.

This is a bright, airy, confident and sure-footed debut that will only cement Josie Duncan and Pablo Lafuente’s growing live reputation and build on their well-deserved 2017 Radio 2 Folk Awards win.

Su O’Brien

Artist website:

‘The Great Escape’:

Rachel Sermanni – new album

Rachel Sermanni Tied To The Moon

Folk-Noir balladeer Rachel Sermanni returns with the release of her new studio album, Tied To The Moon, via Middle Of Nowhere Recordings in July. Tied To The Moon is her second full studio album following 2012’s debut, Under Mountains.

Tied To The Moon was conceived in March 2014, in an apartment above a pottery studio deep in the sticks of Nova Scotia. The apartment belonged to two-time Juno Award winner Old Man Luedecke and offered Rachel four days of complete stillness with no means to communicate with the outside world. Bookended by her routine of going for a morning run in the surrounding ten acre forest and silent afternoons of coffee and pistachios, Rachel would sit, in total solitude; writing; reading; playing music. In the space of these four days she unintentionally wrote six songs – four that would later become the core of Tied To The Moon: ‘Tractor’, ‘This Love’, ‘Banks Are Broken’ and ‘Old Lady’s Lament’.

In total, Tied To The Moon features ten new songs that channel spirits of all ages and archetypes, weaving images of childhood and womanhood, of instinct and inhibition. An indefinable mix of songs, Sermanni’s creations have grown, twisted and turned since those four days in the Novia Scotia solitude to reach a fully-formed stage reminiscent of classics such as PJ Harvey, Tom Waits and Joni Mitchell. To achieve this, she enlisted the help of Colin Macleod (recording and production), Jennifer Austin (piano, organ and backing vocals), Gordon Skene (bass and cello) and Louis Linklater (drums) and tracked all takes, live, in Colin’s living room in the Scottish Highlands.

Rachel, age 23, has toured extensively across the world since 2011, making her a young veteran on the gig circuit. In the past four years she has toured across her native Scotland and the UK numerous times, whilst appearing in Canada, USA, Australia, Iceland and across Europe, as well as sharing the stage with names including John Grant, The Staves, Stornoway, Rumer, Mumford and Sons, Ron Sexsmith and Elvis Costello. Rachel Sermanni has an impressive musical and professional resume, a swath of EP’s recorded all over the world, and now two full length studio albums in addition to last year’s live album that was recorded at Dawson City Music Festival. Sermanni’s newest release though, Tied To The Moon, sees Rachel digging deeper than ever and offering a darker and more rhythmic flavour of poetry and music.

‘Tractor’ – the first single from ‘Tied To The Moon’: