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FAY HIELD - Wrackline 

FAY HIELD - Wrackline 
Topic TSCD608 

Wrackline is Fay Hield’s fifth studio album. The concept of the wrackline as a kind of borderland between sea and land is also a metaphor for the boundary between our world and the realm of the ‘otherworld’ (fairies, ghosts and the animal kingdom). Fay conjures up this ‘otherworld’ with the help of Full English colleagues Robert Harbron, Sam Sweeney and Ben Nicholls, and the result is haunting, absorbing and intensely captivating.

Wrackline’s songs examine contemporary responses and parallels to supernatural elements in traditional folklore, focusing on how these stories help us to make sense of the world around us by examining the way nature interacts with and has an effect on humanity. New light is shed on time-honoured myths and folk concepts, for example on Hare Spell, the magical Selkie song, Swirling Eddies, and the American children’s playground song, The Old Grey Goose. Jenny Wren is a response to the Cruel Mother ballad, itself also reimagined later on this disc. The late-14th-century romantic ballad, Sir Launfal, receives a lusty morris-style treatment, while Terri Windling’s poem, Night Journey, inspires a mysterious pulsing incantation. Fay also brings a more personal slant to her meditations on a wonderful version of Sweet William’s Ghost (learned from Maggie Boyle), Call The Storm and the sparser Wing Flash, but never loses sight of the wider implications.

Fay’s musical settings are imaginative and fittingly mesmerising, with constantly shapeshifting colours and deft strokes, often also incorporating glimmers of old-time (Fay’s recently taken up the banjo). Her voice displays an increased tensile strength and confidence too, and Wrackline’s subject-matter inspires her to make the most of telling nuance and ambiguity.

Wrackline is undoubtedly a thing of beauty that will be a joy for ever, and definitely a prime album-of-the-year contender. Sheer magic.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 136 of The Living Tradition magazine