fROOTS magazine

Rachel Hair is a Scottish harpist and composer from Ullapool in the Highlands. Her fifth album sees her performing in a duo with Scottish acoustic guitarist Ron Jappy. Both come from fishing villages rich in musical tradition. Ron grew up in Findochty, learning the fiddle, and started playing guitar while studying music in Glasgow (UNESCO city of music) where he met Rachel. They studied music during the day and attended Glasgow’s famous music sessions at night.

What resulted from those sessions is a brilliantly simpactico duo, with guitar strings and harp strings intermeshing and interweaving flawlessly as they perform bright, rhythmic, iridescent arrangements of traditional jigs, reels, polkas and syncopated strathspeys, from Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man.

On the Lochinver set, Ron’s guitar provides exhilarating adrenalin to the quick shower of sparks coming from Rachel’s harp, with Scott Wood’s whistle swooping in and soaring lyrically into the finale. The Black Hair’d Lad set of reels has Rachel conjouring a Cartherine wheel of crystalline harp phrases, underpinned by an R&B-inflected percussive punctuation from Ron’s acoustic guitar. And Ron puts a bluesy touch onto Rachel’s laid-back, loping jazzy jig Sunset Squatters.

The duo also perform some heartbreakingly beautiful slow airs. The sweet, gently-caressing Glenbervie was composed by Rachel for her brother’s wedding and is paired with a gorgeous traditional lullaby from the Isle of Man. The wistful, evocative composition Looking at a Rainbow Through a Dirty Window starts tentatively and slowly unfurls a yearning melody that is drenched in encaustic emotion.

Paul Matheson