Along with a faultless supporting cast, this Scottish songwriter has created a vivid homage to the isles that inspired her
Mairearad Green grew up in the Scottish Highlands and for her latest album she has delved into the history of her country’s Summer Isles in order to capture its essence, superstitions and rich history. Each track plays like a sketch on island life and when brought together create a wondrous sense of time and place, whilst managing to sound both traditional and utterly unique.
Opening with the instrumental Island Folk you immediately gain a tantalizing taste of what is to follow, as pipes and accordion echo a gentle lapping tide. The subject of Star Of Hope is a trading boat of the same name. It’s entirely appropriate that King Creosote features on the track, the whole record could almost be seen as a sister album to his 2014 masterpiece From Scotland With Love.
Every song holds its own secret. The sparse A Tanera Talisman (one of three poems by Jan Kilpatrick which Green has put to music) gazes long over the horizon and Stone And Stuggle brings a detailed glimpse into the trials of everyday life. Hector MacInnes sings lead vocals on three tracks, including Grace Darling the tale of a stonemason who is rowed to work every day by his lover. Red Throated Diver uses clarinet and accordion to bring the bird to life, before it disappears (no doubt to find Prokofiev’s own cast of classical creatures).
That these songs tell such a vivid story is proof of Green’s ever improving way with words and testament to the record’s outstanding instrumentation. That that they do so without ever neglecting melody or musicality makes Summer Isles something of a miracle.
Verdict: An inspiring folk album steeped in rich history