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Hudson Records HUD018CD 

Salt House is a trio of well-respected figures on Scotland’s folk scene: Lauren MacColl, Ewan Macpherson and Jenny Sturgeon. Huam (Scots for the call of an owl) is their third album, and there’s a definite feel to it. Imagine friends sitting round a Highland bothy fire and fashioning songs. They’ve come to find calm amid nature, as respite from a troubled world. The owl hoots outside, and it’s time for another dram…

Fire Light, adapted by Jenny from Nan Shepherd’s poem, sets the scene beautifully, with rich interplay between her singing, Lauren’s fiddle and Ewan’s guitar. There are a number of skilful settings and adaptations which you won’t have heard elsewhere. William And Elsie, featuring a revenant lover with his coffin on his back, is adapted from the Danish ballad Aage And Elsie. The stirring Lord Ullin’s Daughter breathes life into Thomas Campbell’s poem from 1795. Jenny has a PhD in seabirds, and the inclusion of a setting for Emily Dickinson’s poem, Hope Is A Thing With Feathers, is fitting. Ewan’s and Jenny’s own songs are of good quality and add to the poetic feel of this 40-minute album.

Lauren plays a big part in the arrangements, while Jenny and Ewan share the vocals. I enjoyed the calm intensity of their singing, but would have found it useful to have the lyrics in the liner notes. The producer is Andy Bell, who is much in demand and whose Hudson Records label is named after his dog. As a bonus, the band is supporting Trees For Life and offers a chance to have a tree planted with the purchase of the album.

Tony Hendry


This review appeared in Issue 133 of The Living Tradition magazine