To say this album is understated, would be no overstatement. Shot through with an arresting delicacy that simply wills you to listen, it possesses a naked simplicity that radiates beauty. Whether it be singing, or playing the harp or fiddle, Rachel performs with an effortless allure that speaks to your innermost senses. Meticulously recorded by Mattie Foulds, The Shadow Side captures an intimacy that is nurtured by the sparing arrangements. With the crisp lucidity of Rachel’s playing and singing always to the fore, the restrained accompaniment of occasional guitar and percussion serves to accentuate a tenderness that boasts warmth and sincerity.
“Green Willow” will be one of the most truly beautiful songs you will hear all year, taming the assured vocals of Kris Drever to deliver a duet of unrelenting intensity and charm; it’s a performance that would surely melt even the hardest of hearts. Rachel pulls off a similar feat on Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” imbuing it with a fragility that is almost harrowing.
The apprehensive eeriness of the sparse opening melody to “The Discoboat,” plucked slowly but determinedly on the harp, makes for an unsettling minute with sinister undertones, before giving way to a more animated melody where the sense of foreboding gives way to a sense of adventure. The title track lives up to its shadowy title; a gorgeous lament filled with longing, played with the utmost restraint and sensitivity.
There are buoyant offerings too, springing forth from Rachel’s harp with boundless energy and abandon, yet retaining the potency of the more reflective moments. The trio of tunes “The Last Minute / The Groupie / Height Of Rudeness” gathers momentum as it progresses towards its slightly manic close, showcasing the harp’s hypnotic combination of depth and agility. “Soundboards And Sockets” is another busy melody with its heady concoction of frantic fervour.
The album closes with the Gaelic song “Am Bruadar Ud a Chunnaic Mi,” sung over a mournful harmonium and yielding the most heartfelt and heartbreaking desolation; it’s endlessly captivating.
Rachel Newton can most often be found performing as part of The Shee or the Emily Portman Trio, but with The Shadow Side she quietly and assuredly places her solo accomplishments in full view.
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Artist Web link: http://www.rachelnewtonmusic.com/