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ROWAN RHEINGANS - The Lines We Draw Together 

ROWAN RHEINGANS - The Lines We Draw Together 
Red Dress Records RDRCD01 

The multi-award-winning singer/fiddler/banjoist/songwriter (of Lady Maisery, Rheingans Sisters and the Songs Of Separation project) now finally releases a solo album, and it consists entirely of her own compositions. It arrives hard on the heels of her acclaimed solo show, Dispatches On The Red Dress (inspired by her own grandmother’s youth in 1940s Germany) which toured the UK a short time ago. The album’s a kind of companion piece to Dispatches in that it also re-examines some of the show’s artistic themes of courageous personal resistance and trauma recovery, developing them within a more emotionally ambiguous and complex framework, inviting different responses and arguably less overtly universal interpretations. A number of the show’s songs (including Fire, Brave and the eerie banjo-driven 12-bar shuffle, Sorrow) are reworked for the album, their intimate expression of resilience and hope chiming with a meditative ‘interior’ exploration of identity, one that’s inspired more by poets, prose writers and philosophers than by Rowan’s fellow-songwriters.

Musically, The Lines We Draw Together is often quite extraordinary too, conveying both beauty and horror with its spare, often tellingly hushed textures that sometimes expand outwards into a more chaotic and surprisingly richly detailed sonic climate. It reaches out beyond an immediately folk soundscape in drawing on the talents of her collaborators including clarinettist Jack McNeill, bassist Michele Stoddart, experimental percussionist Laurence Hunt and electronica musician Robert Bentall, while Andy Bell’s skilful, careful production ensures maximum concentration. The atmospheric final track, Keep Breathing, a reflective, minimalist dialogue for viola and bass clarinet, enfolds us in its embrace yet takes us (and leaves us) “breathtakingly” close to the abyss. But by that stage the listener has learnt to trust Rowan implicitly, not least through her powerful storytelling and her deeply felt humanist stance.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 130 of The Living Tradition magazine