I loved Siobhan’s early work, fell out with her over Mercury but we kept faith with each other and now we have her fifth solo album, Bloom. It’s a familiar mixture of traditional songs, covers and covers that sound like traditional songs. Siobhan is still pushing the envelope but not actually tearing it so the album has an exciting edge. It was co-produced with Euan Burton and other guests include Kris Drever, Ian Carr and Louis Abbott.
The opening track, ‘Queen Of Argyll’, sounds traditional with a modern twist but it was actually written by Andy M Stewart for Silly Wizard so it’s actually modern with a traditional twist, decorated with Jack Smedley’s fiddle. It’s a cracking song to open the album with. ‘Cold Blows The Rainy Night’ is a night-visiting song – not the supernatural sort but the kind in which a ladder is carried as a sort of contraceptive. Siobhan and her band give it a folk-rock vibe and it moves on apace.
Davie Robertson’s ‘Star O’ The Bar’ is a Scottish session favourite – a song of sex and booze written in Scots dialect giving the flavour of Edinburgh at some indeterminate date in the past. I hadn’t heard it before and I really like it. ‘Go, Move, Shift’, aka ‘The Moving On Song’, comes from the old master, Ewan MacColl. Initially, I was convinced that Siobhan had altered the lyrics marginally but I was wrong and it’s just as written. Sorry, Siobhan.
Two traditional songs come next. ‘I’m A Rover’ takes us back to carrying ladders in the rain and ‘The Swan Swims’ is a variant of ‘The Two Sisters’, a familiar story of love and jealousy. I find this version rather disturbing as it seems that three fiddlers come along to take her hair and various bones while she’s still dripping wet from the stream. ‘The Battle Of Waterloo’ should be traditional but isn’t. Jim Malcolm borrowed the tune from the tradition and puts himself in the position of a young soldier dying on the battlefield.
Siobhan lets her hair down a little now, first with Rab Noakes’ bluesy ‘Open All Night’, a song for nighthawks everywhere, driven by Tom Gibbs’ piano and then with David Francey’s ‘Saturday Night’. Francey is a Scot now living in Ontario and is a songwriter who should be much better known in Britain even though he has a dozen albums to his name. I thank Siobhan for recording one of his songs. Finally we have ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’, a song that periodically comes into fashion but is always there.
I shouldn’t have to comment on the beauty and purity of Siobhan’s voice or the excellence of her supporting musicians, so I won’t. Bloom is possibly her best album to date, packed with great songs, fine arrangements and lots of variety.
Artist’s website: https://www.siobhanmiller.com/
‘I’m A Rover’ – official video: