Living Tradition

Celtic harpist Rachel Hair’s second trio studio release, with Jenn Butterworth (guitar, vocals) and Cameron Maxwell (double bass) perfectly illustrates the wide sonic spectrum of these three instruments and how to combine them to great effect in cleverly styled contemporary arrangements founded on intricate interplay.

Self composed tunes are interwoven into sets with a slip jig from the Manx tradition, a Scottish quickstep (James Scott Skinner’s The Duke Of Fife’s Welcome To Deeside), jazz pianist’s Tom Gibbs’ The Marching Gibbon (a tricksily catchy piece with lots of pleasing melodic movement), a polka by Breton flautist Sylvain Barou (equally hypnotic in allure), a tune by Irish band Grada, and traditional arrangements of other material from Scotland, Ireland and Norway. Three songs, expressed with a Scottish inflected voice otherwise reminiscent of Kellie While, comprise Jenn’s Angel, an English translation of Mo Rùn Geal Dileas (My Darling Fair One) and Allan Taylor’s Roll On The Day, about his friend’s long suffering caused by factory pollution.

Cameron’s double bass takes advantage of all the recent developments in amplifying this instrument and offers an array of deeply sonorous and woody sounds, percussive effects, chordal and arco playing. Combining with the crisply clipped trebly/middle rich sound of Jenn’s rhythmic and percussive presence on guitar, deftly using dynamics and space, they provide the perfect backdrop for Rachel’s sparkling harp lines to glide, skip and dance. The trio’s complementariness creates a delightful harmonious entity, richly rhythmic and manifestly melodic.


Kevin T Ward, Living Tradition