HAV – Inver (Folkwit f0136)

InverAs albums go Inver is a bit off the wall but you hope for that from the Folkwit label and I really like it. HAV are a multi-talented trio: Alex Ross, who is the band’s writer, Jonathan Bidgood, who plays a very special role, and Ian Paterson who plays bass. They are the kind of musicians who play with everybody; they have known each other for two decades and have worked on this, their debut, for three years recording in southern Scotland and Newcastle.

The album opens with ‘Ffald Y Brenin’, written by Ross. The title would seem to refer to a Christian retreat in Pembrokeshire, which may or not be significant. Actually, the record begins with the sound of the sea and gulls wheeling overhead. This is Bidgood’s province and his field recordings and sound design decorate the album. The sea morphs into ambient sound from which emerges the most beautiful and haunting of tunes.

There are eight tracks and the album begins and ends with long pieces. Second is another of Ross’ tunes, ‘Cullen Bay’ and then the traditional ‘Loch Tay Boat Song’, a song of seemingly unrequited love on which Ross is joined on vocals by Beccy Owen. Things lighten up now with ‘The Glenglassaugh’ (about a distillery and another opportunity for field recording) and then ‘The Young Man’s Twenty First Birthday’, a story told by Alex’s great uncle Ian Ross. It may not be true – although it should be – and it leads nicely into a pair of spirited tunes, ‘Lydia’s Wedding’ coupled with the well-known ‘King O’ The North’.

The mood becomes more sombre with ‘Peggy Gordon’, with Ross’ gentle, almost lazy vocals carrying the mood of regret and more unrequited love. Finally, there is another original, ‘Goodbye (This Time Forever)’ featuring pipes and snare by Andrew Aitken and Michael Wood which seems to continue the theme of the song. Inver is superficially a simple album but its still waters run deep. I can do no more than recommend it to your attention.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: http://havband.co.uk/

‘Goodbye (This Time Forever)’ – live in the studio: