“It’s an previous custom of the Welsh bards,” wrote the Romantic poet Felicia Hemans, “that on the summit of the mountain Cader Idris is an excavation resembling a sofa; and that whoever ought to go an evening in that hole, could be discovered within the morning both useless, in a state of frenzy, or endowed with the best poetical inspiration.” Fragments of her poem “The Rock of Cader Idris” run by way of the title monitor of the Scottish harpist Rachel Newton’s new album because the music pulses like a darkish Welsh night time.
Newton has been a lot in demand as a harpist with, variously, The Shee, Spell Songs and Karine Polwart — to not point out her personal solo profession which incorporates the wonderful Right here’s My Coronary heart Come Take It — that it was unlikely lockdown would sluggish her down. She retreated to her wardrobe to document this new album dealing, broadly, with the expertise of ladies in conventional tune.
Apart from Hemans, different poets from the 18th and nineteenth centuries are reworked: Susan Coolidge, Anne Hunter, and the songwriter Carolina Oliphant (Girl Nairne), who preserved her anonymity all through her life and revealed her authorship solely to different girls. The melodies to which Newton units their phrases dovetail with the older tunes of “Maid By the Shore” and “Two Sisters”: “I’ll be true to my love”, she sings in a murmur on the latter, “if my love will probably be true to me . . . ” “The Early Morning”, a model of “False-Hearted Knight”, simmers with triumphant viola arpeggios as its heroine outwits a assassin. The waulking tune “Chaidil Mi A-Raoir Air An Airigh”, a story of a lady harassed whereas eager for her lover, rattles together with a drum rhythm just like the slapping of tweed and a repeated Gaelic chorus that rises out of the harp patterns.
The standard of the recording, shiny and clear, belies its do-it-yourself creation. Contributions from the opposite musicians, together with Lauren MacColl on violin and viola and Mikey Owers on a variety of brass devices — notably an underwash of bass trombone — betray no trace of being patched in after the occasion. MacColl duets with Newton on the improvised “I Will Go”, her violin phrases answered by Newton’s harp; the counterpoint improvisation, “Life and Gentle”, sees Owers set out an argument on the flugelhorn that’s curtailed simply earlier than it reaches a conclusion.
‘To the Awe’ is launched by Shadowside