Louise Dodds & Elchin Shirinov –Two Hours After Midnight: Album Review

Louise Dodds and Elchin Shirinov have produced a wonderful collection of jazz influenced interpretations of traditional Scottish folk songs on their new album Two Hours After Midnight.

Release date:  Available now

Label: Loch Tay Records

Format: CD / Digital

Two Hours After Midnight is an exquisite new album collaboration between jazz vocalist Louise Dodds and jazz pianist and composer Elchin Shirinov. Louise Dodds is a Best Vocalist nominee at the Scottish Jazz Awards 2022, and Elchin Shirinov was featured in All About Jazz’s December 2022 poll of the top 200 favourite living pianists in the world.

The album beautifully presents eight traditional Scottish folk songs within a set of new musical arrangements developed by Elchin Shirinov, which draw on influences from the traditional music of Azerbaijan, along with influences from the jazz and classical music worlds. The album title was inspired by the last letter Mary Queen of Scots wrote before she was executed, which was signed “this Wednesday, two hours after midnight.

Comin’ Thro’ The Rye begins the album. It is one of four songs by Robert Burns, featured on the album. Louise Dodds’ vocal, full of expression, follows the contours of the song perfectly, combining both jazz and folk stylings. Elchin Shirinov’s piano arrangement flows beautifully around the song, and in the middle section of the song he plays a sparkling interpretation of the reel, The Banks Of The Allan. It is a dazzling opening to the album.

Loch Tay Boat Song, that follows, creates a reflective atmosphere, as the introspective pacing of the vocal conveys, with a wonderful empathy, the story of both the joy and loss associated with a great love. The piano melodies are charming and elegant and resonate with the ebb and flow of water and accentuate the sense of deep emotions being traversed in the song.

Ye Banks and Braes is another Robert Burns song and is perhaps this reviewer’s favourite performance on the album. Though of course on an album of such quality every track stands out. Louise Dodds’ vocal on this song is one of the best vocal performances to be heard this year, across all musical genres. Her telling of the story of love betrayed, in the contextual setting of wonderment at the natural world, is graceful, passionate, and expressive of the deepest of emotions. Elchin Shirinov’s piano has a tender and halting tone, that perfectly complements the vocal arrangement. Listening to this song is an intensely moving experience.

Lass O‘ Gowrie written by Lady Nairne, who was also known as Carolina Oliphant, a contemporary of Robert Burns, similarly draws in the listener to its emotional core. Louise Dodds has said about the inclusion of the song: “It feels that people are just becoming aware of her and her work now. Some of her songs are very well known and it feels right that she too becomes a household name. We love this song and it was important to us that we include a female composer on the album.”

This is a song that authentically speaks to the joyful power of love, and Louise Dodds and Elchin Shirinov play it with a tangible love and respect for the song and its writer. Louise’s intonation is utterly arresting and engaging and permeates the song with a sense of complete elation and delight. While Elchin Shirinov’s delightful piano phrases underpin the song’s latent sense of pathos and compassion. This is a song with many different aspects and echoes, that Louise Dodds and Elchin Shirinov do full justice to.

A fitting conclusion to this truly excellent album is the Robert Burns song Auld Lang Syne. Here Louise Dodds and Elchin Shirinov return the song to the emotion of its original melody. Piano and voice deliver a delicate and delightful reading of this classic of traditional songs, bringing a poignant and lament like affirmation to the words. If you thought you knew all this song had to offer, you really do need to listen to this gorgeous new interpretation.

In a year of many great new album releases, Two Hours After Midnight, stands out as an album that you will never tire of and will keep returning to. It is also an album that you will find yourself enthusiastically wanting to share with others. An exceptional release that underlines the power of great music to represent and express the emotions and feelings present in the human experience.

On August 5 and 26, Louise Dodds and Elchin Shirinov perform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in St Vincent’s Chapel. They will be performing an exclusive set from the album. You can view Louise Dodds and Elchin Shirinov performing Lass O’Gowrie here: 

For more information about Louise Dodds and Elchin Shirinov:

Louise Dodds / Facebook

Elchin Shirinov / Facebook

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