SIOBHAN MILLER – Mercury (Songprint Recordings SPR002CD)

MercuryTo be brutally honest, if this were Siobhan Miller’s first album and I was listening cold I probably wouldn’t have got past the first three tracks. I loved Strata – it was the perfect blend of new and old, of traditional songs and covers – but Mercury is pop music, well made and sophisticated, true, but pop music nevertheless. All the songs are originals, some written with Euan Burton, Louis Abbott and Kris Drever, performed with a fashionably modern band, embellished with violins and brass.

I’ll temper my criticism a little. The third track, ‘Strandline’ attracted my attention and the fourth, ‘The Western Edge’ is excellent. I hoped, at that point, that Siobhan had turned her back on foolish notions but, sadly, I was disappointed. A major problem is the absence of lyrics: they are not printed on the cover and, although we’re promised them on Siobhan’s website they are nowhere to be found. With everything that is going on around her musically, they are essential. Even the star guests like Eddi Reader and Kris Drever are lost in the wall of sound that Burton, Abbott and Iain Hutchinson generate.

The title track, which opens the album, actually sounds rather interesting on subsequent listenings – I can make out something about picket lines and throwing stones but it’s lost. The second track, ‘Sorrow When The Day Is Done’, is a nicely upbeat song but the combination of Abbott’s drums and John Lowrie’s piano overwhelms it. It’s rather like an episode of Masterchef – I can appreciate the skill and see the ideas going into the dish but there are far too many of them and the finished article is unpalatable.

I am so disappointed with Mercury. Come back to us, Siobhan, please.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.siobhanmiller.com

‘Mercury’ – lyric video:

Siobhan Miller announces new album

Siobhan Miller

Born in Penicuik, Scotland, Siobhan Miller grew up in the folk scene singing at festivals she attended with her parents. Her soulful and stirring renewal of traditional song won her the 2018 BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Best Traditional Track, and Scots Singer of the Year an unprecedented three times at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards (2011, 2013, 2017), whilst her first two solo albums received wide critical acclaim.

Growing up in a musical family in Penicuik, Siobhan made her singing debut at the Auchtermuchty Festival when she was 13 years old, winning both the children’s and women’s competitions. Continuing to sing, learn songs and develop her music, she formed a strong partnership with Orcadian musician Jeana Leslie. Together they won the 2008 BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award and more accolades the following year.

After two albums in partnership with Jeana (2008’s In A Bleeze and 2010’s Shadows Tall) and graduating from Glasgow’s RSAMD with a 1st Class Honours BA in 2009, Siobhan joined Salt House, a group with the finely matched abilities of Lauren MacColl, Ewan MacPherson and Euan Burton. Their album Lay Your Dark Low was released in 2014 heralded as “seamless” by The Guardian.

Siobhan’s first two solo releases, Flight Of Time (2015) and Strata (2017) were nominated for Album of the Year at the Scots Trad Awards, highlighting her extensive range through traditional, contemporary and self-penned material, as well as her “delicate, nourishing vocals and lyrically rich compositions” (The List). Following her well-received debut, produced by James Grant of Love And Money, her hotly-anticipated follow-up Strata featured eleven carefully chosen songs Miller grew up listening to and performing in her youth and showcased the many influences on her formative musical years. Songs passed down by Scotland’s source and revival singers, such as ‘The Unquiet Grave’ and ‘False, False’, were included alongside titles from contemporary writers including Bob Dylan’s ‘One Too Many Mornings’ and ‘Pound A Week Rise’, penned by Ed Pickford.

Siobhan’s unique vocal style has been honed through collaborations and studies with many of Scotland’s top musicians and traditional bearers, leading to extensive tours fronting her own band, as well as guest appearances with the National Theatre of Scotland, a season on Broadway in New York, and on US/UK TV drama Outlander.

Mercury is the third solo album from Siobhan and her first album of entirely original material. Recorded in Glasgow with many of her frequent collaborators, including producer Euan Burton, it also features co-writes with Lau’s Kris Drever and Admiral Fallow frontman Louis Abbott.

Winner of 2018 BBC Folk Award for ‘Best Traditional Track’, at which she was also nominated for Best Singer, Miller is the only ever three-time winner of Scots Singer of the Year, and widely regarded as one of the foremost vocalists in Scotland. She creates music with detail and rich melodies that combine indie and alternative sounds with her upbringing in Scotland’s folk music scene. The album release will be accompanied by an extensive UK tour.

One of the themes of the album is memory: what we take with us over the years as the ‘important moments’, the precious nature of those memories and the curious process of our brain deciding what it will filter out without us really having control over it. Many of the songs see Miller looking at what we leave behind us in various chapters of our own lives and where we are headed, individually and as a society.

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‘The Sun Shines High’ – live:

Artist’s website: www.siobhanmiller.com