WAYWARD JANE – Old Train (own label WJ002)

Old TrainWayward Jane are a quartet from Edinburgh who play old-timey and Americana as though they were born to it. In fact, Michael Starkey has lived and worked in the Appalachians and it is his distinctive banjo style that gives the music a real authenticity. The second lead instrument is Rachel Walker’s fiddle and they are frequently heard playing off against each other. On top we have Sam Gillespie’s flute, whistle and guitar and underneath there is Daniel Abrahams’ double bass or guitar. All four sing and share lead vocals. Old Train is their second album, following their eponymous debut.

The album opens with the traditional ‘Hills Of Mexico’ and you can almost hear the tumbleweed rolling across the desert. Rachel’s fiddle throbs underneath with Michael’s banjo decorating the song until he steps back and lets her take over. It’s so tempting to just put the track on loop. ‘County Farm’ is up next, a long track beginning with a jaunty melody. You wait for a change, then wonder it they can keep it up for eight-and-a-half minutes. At the point when you decide that they will do just that the change comes and they break into a version of Son House’s ‘County Farm Blues’ before returning to the original tune. It’s inspired.

‘Old Train’ is the first of the band’s own compositions and it sounds more Scottish than American, which is a nice change of pace. They don’t really betray their nationality although Rachel’s Scots accent adds a special charm to I Draw Slow’s ‘Carolina’. The other contemporary cover is a languid reading of Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings’ ‘Elvis Presley Blues’. I was expecting ‘Arkansas Traveller’ to be the dance tune but it isn’t and the first instrumental is the band’s own ‘Lyra’s Tune’ which immediately feels familiar.

The final track is another original, ‘Sheep In A Stubble Field’ which might have been composed to give everyone a feature. It begins with wordless vocals – not sure who that is – then Michael’s banjo, another wordless chorus with pizzicato fiddle followed by guitar. At this point, everyone is fed up with waiting around and the band sweeps in with the substantive melody.

Despite the obvious potential of banjo and fiddle for ripping and roaring, Old Train is actually an album to put your feet up to. I’ve enjoyed every moment of it.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: www.waywardjane.com

‘September’ – live in the studio:

Wayward Jane release their second album

Wayward Jane

Wayward Jane are renowned in Edinburgh and beyond as exponents of a unique, transatlantic interpretation of American folk and Old Time traditions, whose sound is characterised by fun, inventiveness and a warm, intuitive dynamic between the band members.

They are just about to release their second album Old Train launched with a concert at the Argyle Cellar Bar in Edinburgh on the evening of Saturday 14th December.

Old Train was recorded by sound engineer and musician Tim Lane whose Stable Project Studio in the East Lothian countryside has become a popular choice for recording artists from Edinburgh’s alternative folk scene. The band took up residence at the studio for the duration of the process and for the most part recorded live in one room with minimal use of overdubbing. The result is a recording that is true to the spirit of their live shows, displaying their characteristic energy, spontaneity and playfulness. This combines with the clarity and richness that has been achieved in the representation of the individual instruments and voices, with pleasing vintage warmth pervading the whole. Graham Coe of the Jellyman’s Daughter mixed the album; his love and knowledge of the genre made him the perfect choice for the record.

The album showcases the band’s unique sound and blends roots material with fresh arrangements and original compositions. Alongside Old Time and Country Blues music, Old Train features songs by Gillian Welch, I Draw Slow and several compositions by the band themselves.

Some classic string band elements are present in the sound, with great fiddle and clawhammer banjo playing complimented by the drive and warmth of guitar and bass. Yet the music also features wooden flute/whistles, an inventive approach to arrangement and an emphasis on powerful vocals with close harmonies. Old Train ranges in mood and tempo from driving Old Time tunes to tender and passionate songs, with musicality and soulfulness animating the whole record.

The four band members are all active in the Celtic folk music scene of Edinburgh (and in some cases the Jazz scene) and they bring these perspectives to the American roots music that is the inspiration for Wayward Jane. The line-up includes Rachel Walker (fiddle, vocals) and Dan Abrahams (guitar, double bass) of the mighty Edinburgh folk-jazz pioneers Dowally, alongside Sam Gillespie (vocals, guitar, woodwind) of Northumbrian folk troubadours The Brothers Gillespie. Banjo player Michael Starkey has travelled and studied traditional music in the Appalachians, bringing back with him tunes and insights which help shape the sound of the album.

Wayward Jane will be gigging and touring throughout 2020 with upcoming performances including Dundee Folk Club on Sunday 19th January, Glenfarg Folk Club on Monday 27th January and Dunfermline Folk Club on Wednesday 5th February.

Artists’ website: http://waywardjane.com/about/

‘September’ – official video: