EP Review

Hannah Scott – Ancient Lights: EP Review

Delightful short collection from wave-making Suffolk-Surrey songstress, Hannah Scott

Release Date:  10th March 2023

Label: Self Release

Formats: CD

Hannah Scott may be a new name to the pages of At The Barrier but, if you care to take a look around, you might just notice that her wave machine is working full pelt to build up a veritable tsunami of interest in her work.  She’s shared concert bills with artists as prodigious as Seth Lakeman and Ed Sheeran (!), she charmed the throngs at last summer’s Folkeast Festival at Suffolk’s pastoral Glemham Hall, FATEA Magazine named her as their Female Folk Artist of 2022 and she’s been attracting serious attention from such media big-hitters as Mojo Magazine and The Guardian.  Hannah Scott is a name that needs to be taken seriously.

hannah scott
Hannah Scott Portraits 2021

She’s tipped for big things, too – and not necessarily as a “mere” folk artist.  Writers with far more clout than me have spotted clear potential for crossover into the mainstream – indeed, as long ago as 2012, The Guardian, commenting upon such songs as Only Way Out, Still Static and Days Of Wine from Hannah’s ever-expanding back catalogue suggested that “…these songs are built for radio…” and her songs continue to attract comparisons with the work of, amongst others, Laura Marling and Amy McDonald.

Now based in Surrey, Hannah hails originally from Ipswich and Ancient Lights, this latest EP offering, takes its name from the house that Hannah grew up in.  Inspired by the Tudor building’s leaded light windows, Hannah’s father came up with the name and Hannah always dreamed that, one day, she would name a record after the house.  The home and family connections don’t stop there, either – those same leaded light windows form the centrepiece of the EP’s artwork, created by Hannah’s artist mother.  Altogether, the EP – title, content and packaging – is a real family affair.

Hannah’s been writing songs since her mid-teens and she eventually summoned the courage to get up and perform them whilst she was a student at Durham University.  After uni, she infiltrated the London folk scene and started to build her reputation from there.  She released her debut recording, the Still Static EP, back in 2012 and Ancient Lights follows her most recent full-length album, 2021’s Down To Darkness.

Two close family bereavements in the space of a year, plus the enforced solitude of lockdown set Hannah on a path of reflection, during which she rediscovered some of her oldest songs.  Deciding that the songs were worthy of reappraisal, she dusted them down and started to play them to live audiences once more.  Ancient Lights is the culmination of that journey of rediscovery.

Recorded during the summer of 2022, Ancient Lights is almost, but not quite, all Hannah’s own work.  She wrote the songs, she sings them and she plays piano and guitar.  She even engineered the album herself!  The only outside help she received (aside from the aforementioned nomenclature and artistic input from mum and dad…) comes from Hannah’s long-term collaborator, Stefano Della Casa who adds some wonderfully atmospheric touches of cello to most of the tracks.  And the result, I’m pleased to report, is a short collection of songs that ooze intimacy, introspection and warmth, with priority rightly given to Hannah’s charming voice and her thoughtful, often comforting, lyrics.

Opening track Ghost Town sets the template that will be followed almost until the EP’s conclusion.  A song that depicts isolation mixed with determination starts life as a soft piano ballad, but the richness of the sound grows as, first, Stefano’s subtle cello, then Hannah’s guitar join in the add to the warmth of the song.

There’s a real feeling of optimism around for Identify, the EP’s second track, as Hannah sings “I’m so glad you’re here; I’m so, so glad you’re here.”  The backing is light – just Hannah’s fingerpicked guitar and more superb light touches of Stefano’s cello – and the result is a delightful song that you’ll want to hear over and over. 

The song’s title may infer sadness, but the lyrics of Into Your Grief – possibly my pick of the whole bunch – are really an offer of help and support.  It’s the most intimate song so far (although we’re not quite at the limit of Hannah’s intimacy, as we’ll see…) and it’s another song that grows in warmth as it progresses.  Hannah’s lyrics are vivid and raw, as lines like: “The air is thin, and breathing is harder than it seems.  It grips my throat and won’t let go – is this what dying means?” demonstrate.

The light, pattering, Skimming Stones is an altogether more reassuring affair.  Hannah’s lyrics this time are an expression of contentment and self-assuredness and her tasteful guitar fingerpicking makes this one of those songs that you’ll love to listen to alone whilst you reload your own sense of self-worth.

Closing track, Goodnight To Elisabeth, is, without doubt, the most thought-provoking of them all.  It’s a sad song of parting, packed with lucid and emotional expressions of loss.  The listener is left to ponder the identity of the enigmatic Elisabeth – is she a friend? A sister? An imaginary companion, maybe?  Of course, it doesn’t really matter who she may be; what does matter is the expression of emotion, and Hannah, accompanied only by her piano, has that particular task nailed.  It’s a beautiful tune too – a satisfying finish to an intriguing collection.

And, if you’re enticed by what you’ve just read, you may be interested to know that Hannah will be launching Ancient Lights with a headline show at The Green Light in Camden on Tuesday 7th March.  She’s also got a whole string of shows lined up around the UK in the coming weeks – details of the shows and of the launch gig can be found here.

Watch Hannah perform Into Your Grief, a track from the EP, here:

Hannah Scott online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / YouTube

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