Battered and bruised after the sudden death of her father at the start of 2015, Edinburgh-born Healy took a sabbatical from gigging and recording to put herself back together. Seeking solace in the wintery German mountains, she slowly put together the songs that would form this five-track EP, returning home to record them live over the space of two days with collaborator Garry Boyle.
Stripped back to just guitar, cello and either piano or harmonium, it is, as you might image, an introspective and intimate affair, the emotions raw and exposed. Backed by minimal noodling piano notes and mirroring cello, it opens with the lovely "Be Still Gentle and Kind" (which was, minus the and, the title of her 2012 debut), a hymnal musing on mortality and the circle of life, as emblemised by the changing seasons, and a reminder not to be so shy as let happiness pass you by.
A similar musical mood enfolds "Hearts Entwined", a classical piano refrain of descending scales and melancholic cello underpinning a song about being apart from a loved one ("I confess, I've been a mess, without you near, my dear"), though it's not hard to read it also as grief over her father's passing.
Mortality also looms over the achingly sung, sad yet serene "Beautiful Peace" ("the air it feels so heavy, like we're running out of time), though here the lines "the sands are weeping gently, as we burn the land with fire" invites an eco interpretation. Then follows the softly swelling title track, marking a rare (only?) appearance of guitar to complement the piano and cello, the wolf in question seemingly grief that won't let her sleep.
Given the lullaby nature of her own songs here, it seems apt to end with an actual one in her sensitive, initially unaccompanied reading of "Highland Fairy Lullaby", a traditional Scottish folk song (though the sleeve credits it to Healy), though, given its theme of loss (Celtic legend had it that unattended babies would be spirited away by the faerie folk) , it's not so much a departure from the other songs as might first appear.
Healy has a truly beautiful and pure voice that haunts with sublime sadness yet also a sense of hope and acceptance, and I suspect it's no accident that the image of the wolf's head over which she's superimposed on the EP cover also looks like angel wings. This is one wolf you most certainly do not want to keep from your door.
|Mairearad Green: Summer Isles||Hattie Briggs: Young Runaway|
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