Tag Archives: female folk singers

Cry Me a Torch Song – the Video Version: December 2016

22 Dec

Welcome to the December 2017 issue of Cry Me A Torch Song – The Video Version. Piers Ford reviews albums from Katie Melua (In Winter: “Real moments of choral beauty”), Ange Hardy & Lukas Drinkwater (Findings: “Exemplary musicianship”) and Joan Ellison (Symphonic Gershwin: “She doesn’t just blow off the dust – she gets inside the raw material and inhabits it”)

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Album review – Emily Smith: Echoes

16 Aug

“My Darling Boy”: Emily Smith explores a new Scottish sound

Echoes: Emily Smith pushes at the boundaries of genre and interpretation

Echoes: Emily Smith pushes at the boundaries of genre and interpretation

Emily Smith has the kind of kind of voice that makes an effortless bridge between traditional folk and the moodier, noir-ish tropes of today’s folk idiom. And she’s in great company. From Ange Hardy and Lucy Ward to Eliza Carthy and Kathryn Williams, we are living in a golden age of young female singers who are constantly pushing at the boundaries of genre and interpretation, creating fresh sounds that are rooted in the ancient craft of telling richly textured stories in song.

Smith’s latest album, Echoes, is a case in point – a collection of 10 traditional and contemporary Scottish songs reinvented with a 21st-century sophistication that honours the heritage they represent while hinting at the growing influence of Americana and the great troubadours of our time.

 For a second, the twanging guitar that heralds the opening track, “Reres Hill”, seems determined to drop you somewhere in the heat of the Deep South before the Celtic harmonies sweep you back to Caledonia. The arrangements are lush and plangent, the pace assured and the emotional connection between the voice and material is insistent and compelling.

Smith describes the album as heralding a “new Scottish sound” – and Echoes has the discrete confidence of a singer who is completely at ease with the organic arc of a career that has come a long way in the decade and more since she was crowned BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year.

There is an aching beauty in her phrasing, underpinned by the playing of a great band of guest musicians, including Jerry Douglas, Aoife O’Donovan and Rory Butler, which frequently tugs at the heartstrings  with a visceral urgency. The range of the material is absorbing, from the intimate tale of “The Sower’s Song” to the epic legend of “King Orfeo”, from the poignant account of “The Final Trawl” to the deceptive jauntiness of “Twa Sisters” – a story that ends in murder.

CD Review: Home – Rosie Nimmo

13 Nov

Timeclock: Rosie Nimmo’s unsettling exploration of life’s rapid pace

Home: the follow-up to Rosie Nimmo's first album, Lazy and Mellow

Mid-November, with a gale flinging the leaves against the window and a darkening sky that seems to promise eternal winter: it’s the perfect time to be listening to Home, a second album from Edinburgh singer Rosie Nimmo.

Not because Nimmo’s lyrics are relentlessly bleak and introspective – although they have their moments – but because despite a sheen of melancholy, little beacons of hope, comfort and warm humanity flicker across her complex vision of life’s travails. Just when you think the darkness is closing in for good, there’s a nip of something strong and reviving to pick you up and give you a wry laugh.

“The secret’s to enjoy the view

If you can enjoy the people too,”

Nimmo sings with cool irony in the opening track, “Never go Back”. And there’s the rub, of course, because it’s people who tend to get in the way. Nature can be a more rewarding companion. Songs like “Moonglow Music” and the title track are like little oases in a landscape of experience that in other numbers – the desolate “Life Can Pin You to the Wall” and “Low Blue Way” with its aching harmonica (a Nimmo speciality) – is often obscured by mist.

Rosie Nimmo in concert at Queen's Hall, Edinburgh (Picture by Marc Marnie)

“The End” is a frank and simple account of leaving things too late in a relationship. Perhaps, as Nimmo suggests in “Listen to Your Own Voice”, it’s ultimately best to be accountable to your own instincts. That way lies inner strength.

This is a wise collection of songs that faces up to some rough realities, not least in the unsettling, driven “Timeclock”, a sensory exploration of life’s rapid passage that really works its way under your skin. But there are moments of joy in the infantile escapism of “Being a Child Again (in the Snow)”, and even the sad tale of “Little Bird” ends on a note of fragile hope.

Nimmo’s style veers between soft, gentle folk and an edgier, almost bluesy quality that keeps you guessing where the mood will lead her. There is some exemplary, unfussy accompaniment from, among others, producer Marc (Hobotalk) Pilley on guitar, keyboard player Ali Petrie (the much-neglected Hammon organ comes into its own on several tracks) and fiddler Mairi Campbell.

Subtle, understated and sure-footed, Home is an intelligent, rewarding piece of work full of quirky hooks and rhymes that send your thoughts spinning off in all kinds of unexpected directions.