Release Date: 10th January 2020
Label: Fiddlehead Records
Formats: CD / DL
‘Progressive Folk’ as a musical genre perhaps had a brief heyday in mid to late 1980’s, when bands such as Moving Hearts pioneered their Celtic/Jazz fusion, Pywackett drove a synthesised medieval revival and the thirst for ‘world’ music was at its most avid. Sadly, this movement seemed to loose its way sometime around the turn of the 1990’s – I say sadly because I always felt that the genre still had much more to offer and it is therefore wonderful to see the emergence of a band like Aerialists and the release of their second album Dear Sienna to pick up the Prog-Folk baton and carry on where those 1980’s pioneers left off.
The album really is a delight. Featuring an eclectic selection of instruments, particularly the harp (of the stringed variety) and the fiddle, which mesh together delightfully right the way through the album, all played by wonderfully adept musicians, the album comprises a selection of songs and tunes which all lie at various positions along the continuum that leads from traditional folk to laid back jazz.
The core members of Aerialists are: Elise Boeur (fidfdle and backing vocals), Màiri Chaimbeul (harp, piano. Rhodes and lead vocals) and Adam Iredale-Gray (guitars, fiddle melody, harmony fiddle and backing vocals) and, on Dear Sierra, the band are helped out vocally by Swedish vocalist Isa Holmgren and folk singer Taylor Ashton. The sound is perfectly rounded off with tasteful drums and bass, played respectively by Jake Jenne/Justin Ruppel and Charles James/Wynston Minckler. Although based in Canada, the band, and their sound, is truly international, with strong influences from Scotland, Ireland and Scandinavia as well as North America.
My hopes were raised to gloriously high levels by the first bars of the opening track, The Rope In The World (intro) which are played by Màiri on her harp. I love the sound of a well-played harp and my hopes fully justified throughout the whole 36 minutes of the album as the bans instruments wove around each other with Màiri’s harp frequently prominent. The album is structured around The Rope In The World, a tune written by Adam, which appears not just as an intro, but as a mid-point and as an outro too.
There really are some lovely tunes on this album. An Gille Dubh Ciar Dubh is a traditional Scottish Gaelic song that segues from the introductory track and proceeds to build nicely over a backing of harp, fiddle and syncopated drums. The title track starts with an electric bass lick that could almost be described as “funky” before first fiddle, then harp cut in with tasty traditional airs. Back in 1994, I acquired an album called Uprooted by Waulk Elektrik; they’re a band that I’ve not seen nor heard from since, but over the years, I’ve given their album some fairly heavy play and I’ve always longed for more. At last, with Dear Sienna and particularly its title track, my wish has finally been granted!
Other highlights of the album include the two Scandinavian offerings: Jag Vill a Swedish song with Isa Holmgren taking the vocal lead and the Norwegian Raklejølkin, a typically Scandinavian tune, Màiri’s tune, Orchard and a selection of jigs which again build wonderfully from their fiddle/piano intro to bring in drums and, once again, harp.
Dear Sienna is a wonderful album that anyone with a taste for anything that could be described as Prog-Folk will play over and over; I will certainly be doing so.
Dear Sienna is out on Fiddlehead Records – Give it a listen!
…and give alisten to Jag Vill here…