Westward The Light released their debut album in 2020 to great acclaim. Their second album Flow Country, named after the landscape between Caithness and Sutherland in northern Scotland, was released at the end of March 2023 and has only just come over my desk. There are nine tracks, all tunes, and it’s a wonderful album.
There’s a predominance of traditional music, but these are mingled with a handful of tunes from the band members – Sally Simpson (fiddle, viola); Owen Sinclair (guitar); Joseph Peach (piano & harmonium); and Charlie Grey (fiddle and hardanger d’amore [if you’re wondering, it’s a ten string violin-like instrument with five strings played and the others creating a resonance or, in non-musical terminology, a sparkle to the sound].
The opening track, ‘Rearrangement Reel / O’er Bogey / The Humours of Carrigaholt’ sets up the album with a vivacity that is picked up in several other sets of tunes. However, there’s room also for other moods – a stateliness in Peach’s ‘Flow Country’ for example, or the jauntiness of ‘O’Farrell’s ‘Welcome to Limerick’.
Above all, though, two things strike me.
There is a sense of Westward The Light being a great addition to a Scottish music scene which is currently already full of class. The tunes are played beautifully, paying homage to the tradition but adding some of their own take and their own music.
The second thing is the liveliness/vivacity that I mentioned earlier. The album was recorded with the band together in one room and you can feel the life of a live performance coming through. It’s a CD and there is limited video of the band available but it doesn’t seem fanciful to say that you can feel them watching each other and picking up on the energy of playing the tunes together.
Peach said of the album, “There are no gimmicks, there’s just straight up traditional music which we feel really captures the essence of our Scottish culture and heritage. … It feels fantastic to be releasing this record after the tough couple of years we’ve faced as a band and an industry, and we cannot wait to get on the road and tour”.
The band’s website currently shows half a dozen concerts, all in Scotland; I can’t help feeling they’d go down well across a much wider geography.
Artist’ website: https://westwardthelight.com
‘Reels: Rearrangement Reel/O’er Bogey/The Humours of Carrigaholt’ – live: