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RACHEL NEWTON - Here’s My Heart, Come Take It

RACHEL NEWTON - Here’s My Heart, Come Take It
Shadowside Records SHADOW02

By the time I was Rachel Newton’s age (that’s erm, fairly youngish!) I’d only ever sung with the one band (we called them groups then). Rachel has been/is in several different aggregations and this is her third solo offering. My outfit never got around to a rehearsal tape!

Such is the way of folk in the 21st century and Rachel’s musical résumé this far includes membership of such as The Shee, her own and Emily Portman’s Trios, The Furrow Collective and work on The Elizabethan Session project, as well as participation in Scots/Norwegian band, Boreas. Sleep for Ms Newton must be at a premium?!

Singing in English and Scots Gaelic, her filigree harp playing is augmented with co-producer Mattie Foulds’ inventive drumming, Lauren MacColl’s fiddle and Michael Owers’ trombone to produce a recording of imposing atmosphere combining traditional lyrics with, on occasion, music composed by Rachel. It’s breathtakingly exquisite. Many of the songs are taken from the Max Hunter collection recorded in the Ozarks between 1956 and 1976, of which the title track where a once-spurned lover says, probably justifiably, “not a second time”, is one.

What is the appeal of the black heart of traditional song today I wonder? Sociological reasons perhaps? We live in an increasingly uncertain age and surely the dark side merely mirrors what’s happening in an edgy world? The psychopathic mother, for example, in The Bloody Gardener is frankly chilling (“he took out his knife, cut the single thread of life”). Don’t Go Out Tonight My Darling has a woman urging responsible drinking on a rum-loving partner, giving the phrase ‘care-worn resignation’ new meaning. Thankfully the subject matter of Poor Lost Babe turns up, though the child will most likely be referred for bespoke counselling!

You’ll gather that beer and skittles don’t feature too heavily over this concise album. Sir Walter Scott’s words on An Hour With Thee do at least spark a weary oblivion but a melancholy quality by and large colours this album. It’s beautiful, but a glacial stark beauty indeed.

Clive Pownceby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 114 of The Living Tradition magazine.