Tales Of ColonssayPoet Jesssie Summerhayes has one again teamed up with the great improvisers The Ciderhouse Rebellion (Adam Summerhayes fiddle and Murray Grainger accordion) to bring out an album in 2 CDs that is something special. Tales Of Colonsay is their second work, after Ironstone Tales, to concentrate on a discrete landscape. It fits well with their previous collaboration, with Ballet Folk, of The Tales Of Jenny Greenteeth. That work totally changed my perception of what ballet is; this album may have a similar effect on how we see Scottish islands.

If you look at photographs of Colonsay it can come across as an almost tropical paradise with clear blue skies and water and beautiful white sand beaches. If you go east you arrive on Jura. If you go west the next landfall is Labrador in Canada. That’s a lot of Atlantic with nothing to break the wind or waves and this is something Jessie picks up on very well. The poems were written as a present to dad Adam during a ten day visit to the island as she explored both the landscape and wildlife. Her use of imagery and metaphor, with free verse, gives a visceral feel to the landscape. Beaches become battlefields, the waves are battering rams leaving their victims smashed and shredded to become food for the gulls and crows. Trees hang finger-like branches into the water to snare whatever passes by. This is very much a story of a place at a time. As Jessie says, the poems “do not tell the tale of Colonsay’s coastline, they tell the tales it told me one week in July.

The album has a freedom to it, with the words being backed by two of the best improvisers around. Adam and Murray can create music from the most basic idea. I’ve seen them ask for a key and time signature from the audience and off they go. This album was done very much in the same way; they weren’t even in the same room and everything was just just one take. Despite, or because, of that the tempo and feel of each piece changes as the words and music swirl around each other like the seabirds Jessie saw gliding around the cliff faces. It’s a beautiful album and another winner from three superb artists. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend playing on a long car journey as the listener is drawn in, almost hypnotically. Instead turn the lights off, lay back with one of the local single malts and allow yourself to be transported.

The album was released on 7th June, though Bandcamp and other platforms, as a double CD or download, along with a book of the poems illustrated by Jessie. Pre-orders are open on Bandcamp now.

Tony Birch

 Artists’ websites:

‘Two Twisted Birches And The Body’: