To the Horizon, Sir is the latest release from Isle of Lewis born Iain Morrison, a talented multi-instrumentalist who recently appeared on BBC’s Transatlantic Sessions. As well as playing guitar (and harmonium on this album) Iain is also a proficient piper, a love passed onto him by his father. Although not a traditional album those influences have surely come into play on this release.
Iain recorded the album in several locations including Vermont, Glasgow, Greenock and Lewis. His trip to the hills of Vermont was driven by his desire to work with friend and producer Michael Chorney (Hadestown Orchestra, Anais Mitchell, Dollar General). As well as playing guitar together they also jointly produced the album.
To the Horizon, Sir is a very contemporary album but far from the ordinary. The album has a strong atmospheric quality with a nice alt-folk leaning reflected in the beautiful artwork of Natalie Jones which adorns the album…simple black and white illustrations from nature that blend well with the imagery of the songs. Vocally, Iain’s voice is often sonorous and fragile sounding, he creates some breathtaking soundscapes that are easy to lose yourself within and forget time. This release feels well rooted to the Western Isles, there is a comfort in these songs that feel lived in and honest.
By the second track of ‘Homeward‘ the album begins to crawl beneath the surface, the sparkling acoustics and Pete Harvey’s rich cello playing (The Leg, Meursault) create a very magical and emotive sound, a stand-out track. ‘Lost with the Archipelago‘ is bright and beautiful with some lovely double bass from Robinson Morse. By the time you hear ‘Psalm‘, one of the most plaintive and sparse, you can visualise looking out across the sea to an empty horizon, the remoteness is accentuated by piano notes heightening the sense of empty space. Whether intentional or not it reminded me of Gaelic Psalm singing something that Iain would have been influenced by.
Iain demonstrates a natural aptitude at conveying very deep emotions to the listener through the arrangements and just the sound of his voice…of course the lyrics play a part but I did find myself wondering if the method of teaching pipes by his father known as canntaireachd, a complex technique which is used to transmit tunes orally was influential in his sensitive use of sound. The combination of modern influences against his traditional influences offer very original and well crafted music that mirrors a beautiful and culturally rich yet remote part of the world. To the Horizon, Sir is an exceptional album from a very gifted artist, we can’t recommend him enough…brilliant!
Sleep. Fly. Wake.
Iain has, at the time of writing this just released an EP Sleep. Fly. Wake. which features some great acoustic only tracks, have a listen to the wonderful ‘Bring the Sea':
You burden me no more, you burden me
You burden me no more, come and see come and see
Like floats washed up on shore
Like ships in the sky
The dark is hidden by light
We can see, we can see
All the words you have hidden
All the colours like grey
Before our death is so sudden
Bring the sea
You hold me close to you
Like a leper on the slide
From the stars I look up to you
You say all’s fine just fine
I gather floats for when it’s time
One by one ten is all we need
That will take us to the other side
Bring the sea bring the sea
To all those who knew love
To all those we share