HANNAH RARITY – ‘Neath The Gloaming Star (Own Label, HR085NEA)

Gloaming StarWinner of 2018’s BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician award, Hannah Rarity, has just successfully crowdsourced her debut album, and it’s exquisitely lovely. ‘Neath The Gloaming Star’ can only – rightly – enhance her growing reputation within Scottish traditional music.

Rarity has that crystal clarity often found in female Celtic voices, but with a misty breathiness around the edges. Her pure diction makes it a joy to follow her expressive storytelling as she makes tiny tweaks in rhythm or tempo, acutely adjusting phrasing to keep the listener hanging onto every word.

Opener, ‘The Moon Shined On My Bed Last Night’ foregrounds that voice, sparsely instrumented with piano and guitar. As the verses progress, the instrumentation intensifies and her singing gains force. It’s a strong start on an album of well-judged arrangements, like the loose groove and layered vocal of title track, ‘Neath The Gloamin’ Star At E’en’. There are other neat touches like the descending fiddle phrase as ugly witch ‘Alison Cross’ strikes her reluctant suitor down to the ground. Only some brief electric guitar harshness on a slowed-down ‘Braw Sailin’ On The Sea’ provides a minor jarring moment.

A couple of songs from Rarity’s 2016 EP, ‘Beginnings’ are redrawn here for a bigger band. Andy M Stewart’s ‘Where Are You (Tonight, I Wonder)?’ is thoughtful and intimate, taken slowly, underpinned by dark strings, piano and muted whistle, yet some of its former intensity is subdued. Conal McDonagh’s elegant whistle also rounds out a fuller arrangement of that lively tale of mistaken identity, ‘Erin Go Bragh’. (The short, fronted ‘a’ sound used here for “bragh” might well be logical, but it rather irksomely defeats the song’s internal rhyme scheme).

Both of Rarity’s featured self-compositions slot deservedly well into the album. The modernity of ‘Wander Through This Land’, punctuated by a soft, militaristic drum, is evident in its choppier phrasing and rhythms, whilst ‘Wasting Time’ reveals an intriguing, throatier aspect to her voice.

Moving performances of ‘Land O’The Leal’ and ‘Hallowe’en’ are reminders of the strength of Rarity’s interpretative talents, while Davy Steele’s ‘Rose O’Summerlee’ makes a perfect album closer, the vocal interwoven with Phil Cunningham’s tender accordion is simply stunning.

Su O’Brien

Artist website: www.hannahrarity.com

‘Land O’ The Leal’ – live:

Hannah Rarity announces debut album

Hannah Rarity
Photograph by Elly Lucas

Hannah Rarity – BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2018 – releases her much anticipated debut album Neath The Gloaming Star on 2nd September. This new release will be launched with a number of high-profile appearances (BBC Proms In The Park) and UK tour dates in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen amongst others.

Following her acclaimed 2016 EP, Beginnings, (“Beautifully engaging vocals, thoughtful interpretations of traditional songs and some highly promising song-writing…Hers is definitely a name to watch.” fRoots Magazine), Neath The Gloaming Star features eleven songs, carefully selected by Rarity, which showcase her powerful vocals and fresh interpretations of songs from the folk genre she whole-heartedly embraces. Her vocal performance is supported by a stellar line-up of Scottish musicians, including Innes White (Karen Matheson, John McCusker), John Lowrie (Blue Rose Code, Adam Holmes & The Embers) and Euan Burton (Kris Drever, Siobhan Miller).

Rarity’s musical career to date has earned her a nomination for Scots Singer of the Year 2017 at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards, seen her feature as ‘One to Watch in 2018’ in The Scotsman and front Irish-American band Cherish the Ladies. This first full-length work is a culmination of her musical journey and experience thus far, establishing Rarity as a voice in her own right, whilst paying homage to both source – Jeannie Robertson – and revival singers, including Rod Paterson, Fiona Hunter and Anne Neilson, from whom songs have been passed.

Produced by acclaimed musician and producer Euan Burton, the album has a bright and modern sound whilst remaining true to the folk tradition it is inspired by. “Neath the Gloaming Star” features a carefully balanced mix of beloved traditional songs, self-penned tracks and soulful covers of some of Scotland’s best-loved songwriters of the folk-revival – two late greats are celebrated in re-workings of Andy M. Stewart’s ‘Where Are You (Tonight I Wonder?)’, and ‘Rose O’ Summerlee’ by Davy Steele, which features folk legend Phil Cunningham. Meanwhile more contemporary songs – ‘Wander Through This Land’ and ‘Wasting Time’ – further develop the emotive themes of loss, love, hardship and longing that run throughout the album.

Artist’s website: www.hannahrarity.com

‘Land O’ The Leal’ – live: