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Reviews

Iona Fyfe Iona Fyfe
Album: Away From My Window
Label: Carnie
Tracks: 10
Website: http://www.ionafyfe.com

At a mere 20 years of age, Aberdeenshire folksinger Iona Fyfe has already garnered widespread praise and established herself as an artist whose star is firmly in the ascendancy. A successful 2017 saw her both as a nominee for Scots Singer of the Year at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards and a finalist in the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year, whilst she was also the winner of the Molloy Award at The Trip to Birmingham Irish Trad Fest 2017.

Many, then, were waiting with eager anticipation for her debut release, which after a gestation period of a year was released on 24th March.

Away From My Windows is a wonderful concept album, celebrating folksong revivalism and encouraging the notion that folksong is an evolutionary art form. The album is a collection of songs, some of which are derived from bothy ballads, which are songs sung, in bothies (outbuildings), in the evenings by farm labourers in the northeast region of Scotland to entertain themselves, others which are sung in different forms the world over, and some which are written by Scots songmakers influenced both by source material and revivalist singers of Aberdeenshire, including and Lizzie Higgins and Stanley Robertson. For good measure, a couple of covers and one self-written are also included.

Whilst Iona fully respects the heritage of the tradition, the songs presented here showcase her desire to expand and explore musical boundaries; thus her modern interpretations, which include using archive samples and digitally programmed accompaniments, together with drawing on the work of contemporary songwriters such as Aidan Moffat (Arab Strap) and Michael Marra, is in many ways all-embracing.

The album also features a top-notch group of musicians, including Luc McNally (Dosca), Tim Edey (Tim Edey Trio), Charlie Gray, Simon Gall (Salsa Celtica), David Foley (RURA), Graham Rorie (Gnoss) Charlie Stewart, and Ross Miller, and was produced by Jani Lang (Dallahan).

Underlying all of this, however, and what makes the recording even more enjoyable, is the quality of Iona's vocals. Without exception, every track showcases her remarkable, hypnotic voice.

Opening song, the beautifully produced Guise of Tough sets the tone for the rest of the album, and whilst everyone will have their personal favourites, at the time of writing, Banks Of The Tigris, a haunting song prompted by the conflict in Syria and the Middle East, is the one to which I return. Remarkably, it is also the only self-penned song on the CD, which means that I am already eagerly anticipating future efforts from her own hand.

A special mention must be made of the accompanying CD booklet. Beautifully produced, the additional background notes, lyrics and photographs are a very welcome addition to what is a highly professional package.

As a debut, Away From My Window displays a maturity that belies Iona's years. The future of traditional music from the North East of Scotland is in very safe hands.

David Pratt