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Salt House Salt House
Album: Huam
Label: Hudson
Tracks: 11
Website: http://www.salthousemusic.com

Salt House are a Scottish trio and this is their third album. Recorded in the restored Telford Church on the Isle of Berneray, its either a sense of place or gradual growth, but HUAM adds a power, an almost mystical presence, and a definite punch to the trios rich music. "Firelight", with words adapted from a Nan Shepherd poem, is a visceral opener. Layers of guitar, providing the melody and deeper bass notes, build steadily, with vocals and Jenny Sturgeon's vocal and Lauren MacColl's fiddle completing this otherworldly and emotional first track.

"All Shall Be Still" is driven by janty guitar with the folk bounce of Dick Gaughan, Ewan MacPherson delivers the lead, with Lauren and Jenny adding chorus vocals. Salt House offer the acoustic warmth of James Yorkston with a little funky darkness woven in. "Mountain Of Gold" is pure folk, a band composition that sounds traditional. There are elements of folk fantastical in the imagery describing how likely easy riches are and a sense of the solid earthly everyday in the song. The arrangement, harmonium and fiddle intro, the beautiful trio vocals and the charged instrumental passages, crackles with atmosphere and is just genius.

"William and Elsie", adapted from the Danish ballad "Aage And Elsie" has a simpler arrangement, but glows with the same otherworldly atmosphere. "Hope Is The Thing With Feather" has that classic Psych Folk atmosphere, twined voices, like The Pentangle's "Lyke Wake Dirge" and picked strings accompaniment. "If I Am Lucky" a song with a decidedly melancholic edge, despite the title, is written and sung by Ewan. His delivery is given even more emotion by the soaring strings around him on another inventive arrangement. "Lord Ullin's Daughter" with words by Thomas Campbell, has the muscular punch of a Steeleye Span electric Folk Rock ballad with a seething, smouldering Jenny Sturgeon vocal. "The Disquiet" describes a more earthly, everyday discomfort, with the lyric and music creating an emotional space.

"The Same Land" is a stirring Sturgeon composition that sounds like a well travelled traditional song. Ancient meets modern with anthemic sing along and abstract sounds running together. "Union Of Crows" is a brighter acoustic frolic, MacColl's fiddle a darker presence that deepens everything. Beautifully packaged in atmospheric imagery, named for the call of the owl, this album generates a sense of calm, of rural isolation, but we are transported to a place with power and presence.

Marc Higgins