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Shadowside Records SHADOW04 

It would take a determined effort of the will to avoid Rachel Newton and all her works over the last couple of years. Illustrating her formidable versatility, she has been an integral part of The Shee, the Furrow Collective and most recently, the themed album, The Lost Words: Spell Songs. Throw in theatre work and storytelling, and it is plain that she will not have a lot of downtime when music emerges from its exile.

Fundamentally, though, Ms Newton is a harpist who sings in both English and Scots, although the title track here is drawn from Welsh roots. More familiar perhaps are reworkings of ballads more often associated with the Borders, and if there is a test for making them sound relevant to the present day, she passes it with flying colours. Songs like Maid By The Shore, Two Sisters and The Early Morning have surfaced in innumerable versions, and here they appear again, fresh and ready to go once more – you can’t keep a good yarn down! Although the electric harp is very much to the fore, Rachel has generous support on To The Awe from drummer and producer Mattie Foulds, horn player Mikey Owers, and Lauren MacColl on violin.

If that sounds interesting, it is because it is. A heady mix of traditional influences blended into something unmistakably modern.

Dave Hadfield


This review appeared in Issue 136 of The Living Tradition magazine