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Vertical Records VERTCD101

BBC Young Folk Award winner (jointly with Jeana Leslie, with whom she has recorded two albums) and two times Scots Singer of the Year, Siobhan Miller’s debut solo release is effectively a collaborative venture with celebrated singer-songwriter James Grant (who produced it, and plays, sings and takes several of its song writing credits), a stellar backing band (Donald Shaw, Ewen Vernal, James Mackintosh) and several guest accompanists (fellow Salt House folk accomplices, Emily Smith and the massed strings of the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra).

The 10 songs are singly or co-written by Siobhan and/or James with the exception of Edwin Muir’s Scotland’s Winter, set to music by guitarist Ewan MacPherson and interpretations of songs by Davy Steele and Dave Goulder. Evocative and emotive in their reflections on matters of the human condition, with particular reference to the temporal theme, there’s plenty of pleasing poetical infusion, deploying imagery of nature especially, and the music includes some cleverly composed melodic courses, particularly James’ beautiful song Down In The Dandelions.

Expertly played and with her fine and characterful voice given due centrality in the dynamic conveyance of the strong songs, the music is often too luscious and smoothly polished in its production. The strings, for example, whether shimmering, wave washing or in pizzicato mode are detractingly de trop. Less would often have offered more as exemplified by the parting rendition of Goulder’s calendric poetic piece January Man about the passage of time. Plainly pared back it is, by contrast, compelling and atmospheric in its folk simplicity and authentic sensibility.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 107 of The Living Tradition magazine.