RACHEL TAYLOR-BEALES – Stone’s Throw – Lament Of The Selkie (Hushland HUSCD05)

Stone’s Throw Lament Of The SelkieRachel Taylor-Beales’ first three albums were the Kieślowski inspired colours trilogy beginning with the jazzy Brilliant Blue followed by Red Tree and Dust And Gold. Having taken a break from performing she now returns with a rather different sort of project.

The subtitle tells you a good deal but the album is more complex than you might imagine. Yes, it is inspired by the Orkney legends of the seal-folk but Rachel has turned the story around, brought it up to date and gone deep into it to produce a concept album – unfashionable though that idea might be – based on a single relationship. Unlike the well-known ballad, our heroine is a Selkie maiden who gives up her aquatic existence for a human man – a bit like Andersen’s Little Mermaid if you will. As you might imagine the path of true love doesn’t run smoothly but I don’t want to spoil the story by saying any more.

The principal musicians are Rachel and her husband Bill playing a plethora of guitars and half a dozen other instruments with support from Lucy Rivers’ violin and Rosy Robinson’s cello with walk-ons for Dylan Fowler, Paul Gray, Angharad Evans and Rachel’s brother Shane Beales. The result is a variety of sounds that still retain a coherence as the story unfolds. There is pounding percussion on ‘Summer Again’, for example, immediately followed by the piano-led delicacy of ‘And May It Be’ with Lucy’s soaring countermelody soaring over the top. The songs are strong but I wish the budget had run to including the lyrics – a relatively minor criticism of an excellent and original album.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: http://www.racheltaylor-beales.com/

Rachel’s showreel will fill in some background: