Audiences have been keen to hear Claire Hasting's debut album since she secured the title of BBC Young Traditional Musician of the Year in 2015. 'Between River and Railway' does not disappoint. The combination of Claire's voice, her storytelling ability, the diverse repertoire presented and quality supporting ensemble make this a genuine treat.
Claire's vocals are the star of this recording, and rightly so. She sings with an effortless control and wonderful vibrato, and whilst her voice is clear and sweet there's a subtle richness and smokiness round the edges. It is always a feat to capture the raw energy of live performance in the studio and here Claire pulls it off with aplomb and the feeling that she is behind each and every word. It shouldn't be forgotten that as well a singing on this project, Claire also plays the ukulele and it's sweet, bright sound compliments her voice well.
The supporting instrumentalists carry the vocals perfectly, never obscuring the lyrics but never entirely taking a back seat. The end result feels like a genuine collaboration and the textures of the combined instruments have the quality of a traditional session. Even with this lush accompaniment, it's still great to hear Claire's ukulele in the mix.
The opening track, the House at Rosehill, is a nostalgic tune that paints a picture of a fondly recollected childhood. The structure and feel of the tune are direct descendants of traditional ballads and this sense of familiarity sits well with the theme of the song. Later again, in Son of No One, the production and arrangement skillfully complements the lyrical material. The fingerstyle guitar supports this sad tale with dark chords and the violins and synth in the instrumental are truly eerie and unsettling, matching the sentiment of the vocals perfectly.
Having demonstrated early on that she has a gift for turning contemporary stories and historical narratives into accessible folk songs, it is The Posie that shows Claire's skill in arranging traditional material and sculpting it into something truly beautiful. In this standout track, shimmering chords soar over droning bass reminiscent of church organ before giving way to delicate chimes. It has been said that Claire's setting of this Robert Burns song is an improvement on the original and I'm inclined to agree. There's a subtle sadness in this gentle and sensitively sung song and it is easy to imagine audiences sat in a hushed awe when Claire performs this live.
|Elin Ivarsson: Elin Ivarsson||Claire Anne Taylor: Elemental|
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