Released to coincide with the celebrations in 2009 of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns, Emily and Jamie offer a collection of songs that shine with utmost clarity. At the root of this is almost certainly Emily’s flawlessly beautiful voice, and coupled with the animated and uncluttered arrangements fashioned by the duo, Adoon Winding Nith makes for an enjoyable and engaging recording. A steady depth is provided by the double bass of Duncan Lyall, but all the other instruments are played by Emily and Jamie themselves. Predominantly, this involves the punchy rhythms of Jamie’s guitar and the unconstrained fervour of his fiddle, whilst Emily plays the accordion with her customary seamless ease.
Burns’ words draw attention to both the playfulness and longing of love and lust, emotions that Emily and Jamie flood with life in their colourful interpretations. “Silver Tassie” tends to the darker side, telling of a soldier preparing to embark on a war-bound ship, allowing Emily to display the full force of her captivating and emotive vocals as she wraps them around Burns’ lovelorn words to stunning effect. A more joyous celebration of love is found in “The Plooman,” with Emily’s sprightly vocals seemingly dancing with joy alongside Jamie’s spirited guitar and fiddle accompaniment. And so they continue, moving effortlessly between exuberance and woe.
A fondness for the subtle features of nature are oft present in Burns’ writing, as a defining backdrop or an allusion to a more mortal beauty. There are a few songs here that deliver to this promise, with the wild birds, spreading leaves and flooers of “Craigieburn Wood,” or the blooming heather in “Gala Water.” These scenic hints define the landscape in which Burns’ words flourish, and this might well be an influence on Emily’s own writing, as she displays a similarly well-trained eye to the finer details of the natural world around her.
Many of the songs featured on Adoon Winding Nith were passed down to Emily through the oral tradition that was very much a part of her Borders upbringing. The sleeve notes include a brief commentary on each song, as well as a useful glossary to aid your understanding of Burns’ Scots dialect. Emily’s reference material is also quoted, reassuring you that this is no passing whim, but a subject about which Emily is well versed; indeed, there may well be no better Scottish singer to reinterpret the words of Burns. Between them, Emily and Jamie have fashioned a fine album that demonstrates the enduring relevance of Burns’ words, whilst adding much to their beauty and character.
Visit Emily’s web site here!
Visit Jamie’s web site here!
Review by Mike Wilson