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Gill SandellGill Sandell
Album: Songs Of Our Years
Label: Rowan Tree
Tracks: 12

Although Gill's an important member of Emily Barker's Red Clay Halo lineup, she's also a very talented performer in her own right (as multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and singer). Back in 2011, she released her solo debut Tarry Awhile, which though well received didn't get to penetrate my radar; then in 2013 came its followup Light The Boats, which turned out to be a real discovery and was widely acclaimed. Last year she collaborated with activist songwriter Chris T-T on a duo album and a film theme, and now she's back with another new collection of self-penned songs which, in accordance with her self-imposed modus-operandi, were written during countryside retreats - this time in early 2015 in the Welsh countryside.

Thus, naturally, the spirit of isolation permeates her writing and, although her songs sound on the surface calm and reassuring, they prove on closer examination to contain altogether darker, chilling or sinister undertones. Check out the environmental commentary Fruits Of The Season for example: an inspired juxtaposition of imagery. Right from the extraordinary opening lines of Walk On Low ("Hear the chime of ice in the eyes that echoes between you and I"), these songs are both percipient and arresting. Gill's delicate and apparently fragile vocal delivery captivates, and all the more so within the sonic backdrop of this latest album, which, although utilising many of the same musicians from Light Your Boat, was this time recorded mostly live over seven intense days (in contrast to the extended layering process used for the earlier disc); interestingly, though, this often produces a fuller tapestry to the band sound.

There are occasions when Gill's images are more impressive than her melodies (the lazy jazzy brassy ambience of My Heart Sat Down, for instance), and the skittering arrangement for The Other Side Of Green feels altogether too cheery; and the final pair of tracks (an instrumental interlude and the repetitive, drifting The Fading Hours) don't really add anything to the picture, but on the whole Gill expertly holds the listener's rapt attention with her thought-provoking exploration of the differing perspectives that loss - the album's stated central theme - can bring.

David Kidman