Olivia Chaney: Shelter

There’s magic in Olivia Chaney’s second solo album, the how of it defying explanation but the where instructive: An 18th-century cottage on the North Yorkshire moors, no electricity, plumbing or running water; a refuge from urban noise, distraction; solitude, where she confronts the uncreative demons, wrestling with them until her inner chorus of angels emerges. Notwithstanding the sharp sense of place in her writing retreat and her songs … More Olivia Chaney: Shelter

Rachael McShane & The Cartographers: When All Is Still

Sex, death and rebellion are the stuff of tavern gossip and folk music, and they reach their fullest resonance when delivered with a healthy dose of irreverence. This is the payload of When All Is Still, a rollicking album of comedy and calamity, mischief and mayhem, by Rachael McShane and her band. Yorkshire-born and Newcastle-based … More Rachael McShane & The Cartographers: When All Is Still

Namvula: Quiet Revolutions

The difference between Namvula Rennie’s 2014 debut album and her new release Quiet Revolutions mirrors the distinction between a short story anthology and a novel—on one hand a lovely collection in which each song reflects a specific musical universe, on the other an enchanting holistic sound expressing many facets of an integrated identity. The Scottish-Zambian singer-songwriter has imbibed folk, jazz, Latin, Afro-beat and traditional Zambian influences … More Namvula: Quiet Revolutions

Julie Fowlis: Alterum

The starting point is harmony between Scottish Gaelic—“spoken for over a thousand years,” Julie Fowlis observes, “yet considered otherworldly on its own shores”—and her enchanting, heaven-to-earth voice. On Alterum, she approaches otherness not only as a homegrown/uncommon language but also as a series of dimensions—a mystical plane of nearby hidden realms (magical/supernatural); proximate elements that give one another definition (land/sea) … More Julie Fowlis: Alterum

Gwyneth Glyn: Tro

Gwyneth Glyn’s elegant songs have more layers than a mille-feuille. Her images and subtexts rotate clear and dreamlike, overlaid with lyric tones of light and shadow. She touches on homecoming, remembrance, insomnia, protection and defiance—always circling back to the wonder and vulnerability of love and intimacy. Glyn sings, primarily in Welsh, in a softly commanding voice. On Tro (Turn), her songs, mostly new compositions, have a gorgeously … More Gwyneth Glyn: Tro

Mary Ann Kennedy: An Dàn – Gaelic Songs for a Modern World

Just as construction cranes on a city landscape signal renewal, so do new songs indicate the vitality of a language. Mary Ann Kennedy, an architect of the Scottish Gaelic Renaissance, builds toward the heavens not with stone and steel but with words and music. Daughter of a musical dynasty from the Isle of Skye, she grew up … More Mary Ann Kennedy: An Dàn – Gaelic Songs for a Modern World

Coope Boyes & Simpson: In Flanders Fields

World War I hostilities began in Europe on August 4, 1914—and 976 days later the United States joined the conflict. On August 4, 2014, the English a cappella trio Coope Boyes and Simpson released a sweeping 50-track homage to the songs of the war and the British soldiers and civilians who sang them. Now, some 976 days after the album’s launch, a review from an American music blog seems belatedly on time. In Flanders Fields is a landmark … More Coope Boyes & Simpson: In Flanders Fields

Claire Hastings: Between River and Railway

No single album can capture the entire arc of Scotland’s musical culture, but there is a breathtaking sweep to what Claire Hastings accomplishes in the 10 tracks of her debut album. She gambols across time and space (from 17th-century hillside to 20th-century factory); weaves between joy and heartbreak; blends traditional songs with her own masterful lyrics and music; contributes a new melody to a poem by her Dumfries townsman … More Claire Hastings: Between River and Railway