Wayward Jane release their second album

Wayward Jane

Wayward Jane are renowned in Edinburgh and beyond as exponents of a unique, transatlantic interpretation of American folk and Old Time traditions, whose sound is characterised by fun, inventiveness and a warm, intuitive dynamic between the band members.

They are just about to release their second album Old Train launched with a concert at the Argyle Cellar Bar in Edinburgh on the evening of Saturday 14th December.

Old Train was recorded by sound engineer and musician Tim Lane whose Stable Project Studio in the East Lothian countryside has become a popular choice for recording artists from Edinburgh’s alternative folk scene. The band took up residence at the studio for the duration of the process and for the most part recorded live in one room with minimal use of overdubbing. The result is a recording that is true to the spirit of their live shows, displaying their characteristic energy, spontaneity and playfulness. This combines with the clarity and richness that has been achieved in the representation of the individual instruments and voices, with pleasing vintage warmth pervading the whole. Graham Coe of the Jellyman’s Daughter mixed the album; his love and knowledge of the genre made him the perfect choice for the record.

The album showcases the band’s unique sound and blends roots material with fresh arrangements and original compositions. Alongside Old Time and Country Blues music, Old Train features songs by Gillian Welch, I Draw Slow and several compositions by the band themselves.

Some classic string band elements are present in the sound, with great fiddle and clawhammer banjo playing complimented by the drive and warmth of guitar and bass. Yet the music also features wooden flute/whistles, an inventive approach to arrangement and an emphasis on powerful vocals with close harmonies. Old Train ranges in mood and tempo from driving Old Time tunes to tender and passionate songs, with musicality and soulfulness animating the whole record.

The four band members are all active in the Celtic folk music scene of Edinburgh (and in some cases the Jazz scene) and they bring these perspectives to the American roots music that is the inspiration for Wayward Jane. The line-up includes Rachel Walker (fiddle, vocals) and Dan Abrahams (guitar, double bass) of the mighty Edinburgh folk-jazz pioneers Dowally, alongside Sam Gillespie (vocals, guitar, woodwind) of Northumbrian folk troubadours The Brothers Gillespie. Banjo player Michael Starkey has travelled and studied traditional music in the Appalachians, bringing back with him tunes and insights which help shape the sound of the album.

Wayward Jane will be gigging and touring throughout 2020 with upcoming performances including Dundee Folk Club on Sunday 19th January, Glenfarg Folk Club on Monday 27th January and Dunfermline Folk Club on Wednesday 5th February.

Artists’ website: http://waywardjane.com/about/

‘September’ – official video:

DOWALLY – Somewhere (own label, DW002)

SomewhereAre we there yet? Today’s destination is highland hamlet Dowally – or rather, the immensely talented Scottish trio of that name, who decided to call their second album Somewhere. Alongside their first album, Welcome To Scotland, it does suggest the musician’s itinerant life, that standing wave of maps, road signs and satnavs. Somewhere also suits the geographically fluid nature of the band’s music which weaves elements of traditional, jazz, Klezmer and classical into a luscious, glowing soundcloth.

Dowally was invited to record its first album by cellist and creative wizard Graham Coe (The Jellyman’s Daughter, Sam Kelly band). A fairly off-the-cuff affair, it led to a more planned approach for Somewhere, with Dan Abrahams (guitar/double bass) and Rachel Walker (fiddle/whistle) writing most of the material. Phil Alexander (accordion/piano) completes the Dowally triumvirate, and Coe’s cello makes a welcome return appearance on three tracks.

Opening with ‘Sunday Brunch’, as laid-back as its title indicates, the music displays inventive turns of rhythm and fluid changes of pace. As is typical for this album, instruments riff around the melody, dancing away and back again. It’s a playful approach that can only be rendered well by seriously good musicianship.

A surprising cover of Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ is mashed up with fiddle tune ‘The Banshee’. It’s intriguing and striking, especially in the final section where two differently paced vocal lines plus fiddle gather together to a shuddering, implosive halt. Dominic Blaikie’s strong, flexible vocals feature here and on a cover of Lennon/McCartney’s ‘And I Love Her’. This is a most extraordinary, dark rendition, as the vocals dip and soar, almost menacingly, across Alexander’s improvised reel fill and a poignant fiddle.

This album is simply packed with inspired, original moments as the band sweeps the listener along with logical yet unexpected musical progressions. Tunes writhe and twist from one mood to another, musical genres flicker and move on. A slow dance between guitar and accordion gets interrupted by an urgent, insistent fiddle in ‘Veruda’; ‘Be Mine Or One’ courses jazzy peaks and valleys, and the Klezmer of ‘Castellation’ invokes something moodier and darker.

A brusque accordion punctuates fiddle and guitar on ‘St Vincent’s’, developing into a into lush piano, as the whole bends up to its finale. ‘Chris And Emily’s’ loose, bluesy guitar intro to is picked up with superbly curling, intricate banjo, courtesy of Dallahan’s Ciaran Ryan.

Culminating in ‘Port Inn Hornpipe’, a fine display of how this band creates an auditory feast, a jaunty air gets lightly dusted with chilled out jazz until it’s abruptly interrupted by frenetic banjo, dashing piano and accordion. Returning briefly to the central theme, now embellished with bar room piano and vocalising, a last banjo flourish whisks it away for good. Unlikely on the page, perhaps, but fantastically good on the ears.

Produced with a confident, airy lightness that allows each instrument – and the spaces in between – the space to speak clearly and be heard, this album is a true listening pleasure.

So, are we there yet? Yup. Wherever Somewhere is, it’s pretty impressive. Definitely worth sticking around for a while to see where Dowally heads to next.

Su O’Brien

Artists’ website: www.dowally.com

‘Fluorescent Banshee’ – official video: