The young Scottish Rachel Sermanni is proving to be a force to be reckoned with in the eclectic field of contemporary folk. Having released her debut, Under Mountains, in 2012, she now follows with Tied to the Moon, a more sonically robust and grittier collection that reveals a distinct rock edge to her work.
The progress in her sound is clear from the opening cut, Run, a throbbing bass underpinning the rumbling rhythm as bluesy guitars riff and an organ churns behind her soft but prowling vocals as she sings about screwing up a relationship and how “last night I was one shadow trying to kill another.”
She’s in a bluesy mood again on the more loose-limbed swagger of Wine Sweet Wine, Jennifer Austin’s piano tinkling behind the rhythm section of former Frightened Rabbit Gordon Skene and Admiral Fallow’s Louis Abbott, while the spooked, slow I’ve Got A Girl with its alter-ego lyrics hews to brooding cabaret and the nervy itch of Tractor (“all the people gather round when dirt is found”) chugs with a Cat Power-like feline intensity punctuated by her screaming guitar break.
There are quieter, more subdued moments, but even these display an unsettling tension. Old Lady’s Lament is a gentle, almost lullabying, acoustic number sketching a poignant portrait of old age as the narrator recalls her children grown so tall and “out of reach” and sings “I’d have my heart be broken just to touch a loved one’s skin”. Elsewhere, fiddle strokes the hairs on the spare, hushed steel-string acoustic love song Don’t Fade while, on the jazz-tinged Ferryman, her earthy yet pure voice unfolds a story of ill-fated runaway lovers (“love like this, he said, don’t ever float”) against plucked violin and mournful cello.
One of the album’s standout numbers is arguably, Banks Are Broken, a duet with fellow Scot and producer Colin Macleod, both their accents clearly evident as, against weeping strings, they trade verses on a break up song that flows from denial to acceptance and features the emotionally desperate line “tonight is the last time I get to hold you fast.”
It all winds up with a last chorus song, This Love, Nicola and Fiona Macleod lending their interleaved harmonies to the fragile, gradually gathering puttering arrangement of raindrop drums and melting icicle piano notes, a striking conclusion to a hugely impressive album.
Review by: Mike Davies
Out Now via Middle Of Nowhere
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