Proving to be increasingly versatile and innovative, Rachel Hair returns with her third recording, this time placing the harp in the midst of a dynamic trio, featuring the double bass of Euan Burton, alongside the guitar and vocals of Jenn Butterworth. Even in this company, it is the shimmering character of the harp and the unequivocal passion of Rachel’s playing that forms the backbone of the recording, flooding the senses with its bold and frivolous spirit one minute, and with its nimble subtleties the next.
Jenn Butterworth adds guitar that is assured but never overshadows, and the resonant depth of Euan Burton’s bass is a perfect foil for the more delicate harp. Jenn provides lead vocals on three numbers: a lively, contemporary reading of Cyril Tawney’s ‘Grey Funnel Line’; a soaring rendition of Jesse Winchester’s ‘My Songbird’, where she proves to be quite the songbird herself; and also on her own evocative composition, ‘Island’. Notably, it is Jenn’s layered vocals that bolster a couple of instrumental tracks with an alluring vocalise alongside the instruments, resulting in a sensuous, ethereal sound.
Other carefully selected guests contribute to the diverse flavours. Fraser Fifield’s soprano saxophone brings a brisk fluidity to which Rachel’s harp seemingly gives chase with an exhilarating fervour on ‘Harsh Feb Reels’, whilst the ever-exemplary percussion of Signy Jakobsdottir, serves to heighten the contemporary sound.
It is when the harp receives most prominence that this listener is most beguiled, and the two tracks that close the album showcase the contrasting moods that Rachel so effortlessly harnesses: ‘Home And Happy’ manifests heartbreaking serenity in the most tender and moving manner, whereas ‘The Birthday Jigs’ conjures up sheer, unbridled joy.
In Rachel’s hands the possibilities are endless, and the harp knows no boundaries; her relentless energy and appetite for exploring the possibilities that are open to her instrument ensure that hers will always be an interesting journey to follow.
Review by: Mike Wilson
No More Wings is released on March Hair Records (2 April 2012)