When I first heard the Rheingans Sisters I hoped that they might bring something new to the folk music of Derbyshire where they grew up. Instead, they have fixed their attention on composition and songwriting and the result is their third album, Bright Field.
The sisters are much travelled. Anna now lives in France and Rowan is a go-to violin-player for many distinguished musicians as well as being one third of Lady Maisery and one-sixth of Coven. This album was recorded in Wales under the supervision of Dylan Fowler who also adds bass guitar and tabwrth when required – and if you’re wondering what a tabwrth is, so was I – it’s a small drum or tabor.
There is a wildness, an exoticism about Bright Field. It opens with Anna’s tune, ‘Glattugla’, which was inspired by a winter spent in Trondheim and has an unmistakeable Scandinavian vibe about it, as does ‘Swinghorn’ which was also written in Norway. Snow and ice features quite a bit. The first song, Rowan’s long ‘This Forest’, is nothing less than a history of the planet in the form of a dream and she envisages the end of our world under a blanket of snow. It’s a superb song and probably the highlight of the album.
Anna’s French influences are present in the shape of two bourées and a song, ‘Appel’, which is about wanting to go south because the north wind is freezing her – and that’s as far as my French takes me. Finally in this Francophile segment comes ‘Lo Segoner’, a traditional branle. The title track is a long instrumental written by Rowan terminating in a poem by R S Thomas read by Dafydd Davies-Hughes. I particularly like ‘Edge Of The Field’ which I’m guessing is the final plea of an old horse for a dignified ending. It’s remarkably moving.
There’s a lot to listen to on this album and much to enjoy and the sisters’ current tour would make for an excellent night out.
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‘Lo Segoner’ in session: