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Rowan Rheingans Rowan Rheingans
Album: The Lines We Draw Together
Label: Red Dress
Tracks: 10
Website: http://www.rowanrheingans.co.uk

Rowan Rheingans, The Lines We Draw Together (2019) Red Dress Records

Rowan Rheingans is a fiddle player, guitarist and singer songwriter. Member of Lady Maisery its as half of the excellent Rheingans Sisters she first came to my attention with their excellent 2018 album. This year Rowan premiered an ambitious and deeply personal show DISPATCHES ON THE RED DRESS, inspired by her grandmother's youth in 1940's Germany. THE LINES WE DRAW TOGETHER, with its striking cover graphic of birds and bombers, features songs from the live show and new material.

Delicate and beautiful like a dew kissed spider web, but with a raw bite and savage power, Rowan Rheingans voice is a thing of wonder. "What Birds Are" features Rowan's voice over a swooping and bobbing violin and skittering drums. It's a stripped back masterpiece of emotion and understatement. "Lines" features Rowan's voice double tracked in a wonderful call and response arrangement. The sweetness is contrasted by the edgy violin and an eerie buzzing Bass Clarinet. The whole song seethes with Psych Folk edge that builds to free jazz intensity and percussive freak out, but always contrasted by that pure soaring voice. As sharp as sunlight Rheingan's violin is a thing of wonder, solo and then folded back on itself "Traces" is initially a shimmering instrumental of startling power. Shifting and subtle the opening section gives to a pizzicato passage and finally an anti war song that is intoxicating and almost claustrophobic in its enveloping intensity. As warmly mesmeric as John Martyn's "Don't You Go". What is striking too is how the tracks build and then decay, revealing instruments, rather than fading out. "Fire" is a wonderful metaphor of a song, a subtle commentary. Rowan's intimate vocal is carried by the banjo and contrasted by Jack McNeil's stuttering clarinet. "Brave" is a raw, brooding song, another anti war song built round a loop that suggests the assisted breathing of a intensive care patient. Rowan's swirling voice carries real power, but it is wound tighter by the Terry Riley like atmospherics around it. "Sky" details birds circling above the imprisoned and the earthbound. Rheingan sings against a violin and a rising Hammond organ drone, a simple arrangement for an intense set of pictures. "Long Walk Home" has an almost dreamlike abstract intro with Michele Stodart's intricate bass. Again there is layered beauty in the playing and the vocals with flashes of edge. Tom Lenthall's backing vocals give an earthy very English Elbow like intensity. "Walls" opens with a poignant very contemporary electric guitar part and a simply transporting vocal. There is a sense of space, you can hear the room around the Rowan's guitar and again there is that perfect vocal pairing of her and Tom. "Sorrow" has that beautiful rawness that connects performers like The Watersons and Eliza Carthy. The lyric "we better make some room for sorrow or we will sing a darker tune tomorrow" is poetic and gallows humour and the delivery is electrifying. "Keep Breathing" is a powerful final evocation to carry on from its opening eldritch violins, swollen by that brooding clarinet to the slowly building final burst. The light and shade, with the music rising to fall away on this minimalist masterpiece.

This is a carefully arranged and delicately constructed album, but it is never folksy or fey it is always taut, tightly wound with an emotional electricity and a darkness that raises the hairs on the back of the neck.

Marc Higgins