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HANNAH RARITY - To Have You Near 

HANNAH RARITY - To Have You Near 
Private Label HR085HYN 

Here Glasgow-based Hannah confronts the famous ‘second album syndrome’ and hurdles any possible pitfalls with some ease. And as befits the winner of the 2018 BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year, the album oozes quality in song choice, arrangements and above all in vocal delivery.

I salute the backing musicians, too numerous to list here. Suffice to say that they are top notch in their field, and their work benefits from the engineering and mixing of Iain Hutchinson at Glasgow’s GloWorm Studios and the production of Scots musician Innes White, who also adds his acoustic guitar.

The 10 tracks consist of two self-penned songs; two more which were written with Gordon Maclean; and the remaining six were covers of songs by Gerry O’Beirne, Boo Hewerdine, Stephen Foster, Tom Waits, Davy Steele and Julie Matthews.

Five of those six succeed gloriously: they transcend the word ‘cover’, and truly become interpretations, bearing Hannah’s own stamp. (Not sure that her reading of Foster’s Hard Times Come Again No More adds anything to Mary Black/Dolores Keane, although she does a perfectly respectable job of it with her oh-so-gorgeous voice.)

The standout cuts for me were her own song She Must Be Mad, with its killer last line, and her version of Davy Steele’s Scotland Yet.

With the former, the way the sparse keyboard accompaniment swells into soaring strings from her string section proved truly impressive, and her last line yielded up the full meaning of a fine song. With the latter, I am reminded that not only did the late Davy write the lyrics to my favourite song to come out of Scotland in the 1990s – the magnificent The Last Trip Home – but also wrote the wonderful Scotland Yet, a stirring song more recently used by the Yes campaign, (although interestingly, Steele’s lyrics in this great, thoughtful song are so subtly nuanced, that they can indeed be read the other way). Hannah delivers it with customary aplomb.

Dai Woosnam


This review appeared in Issue 144 of The Living Tradition magazine