Emma Marshall of Fatea
reviews Hector Gilchrist by Hector GilchristWhile I was waiting to review this album, I did a bit of YouTube digging in preparation. The first thing I found was a Gilchrist's restyle of Janis Ian's heart-breaking ballad 'Getting over you', which made the hairs on my arms tingle and want to learn the song. Always a good sign. The second was a beautiful take on the song 'Every time' with singer Sue Graves with the sweetest close harmonies I've heard in a good long while. And so, it went on until it was way too late, with every clip I watched inspiring and inspired, very much looking forward to hearing more.
And so, the album arrived, and I headed out over Dartmoor when I live with it on loud in the car to have a listen. I immediately relaxed into a real treat of an album, causing me to drive a lot slower than I might as I savoured Gichrist's rich, tender tones, and spacious, well-judged arrangements.
The beautiful yellow gorse was out with the sun over the moors, but I don't think it was that that led me to embrace the emotion I these songs. Hector sings like he means it. There are many good singers out there, but it takes a master craftsperson to take a song, imbibe and metabolise it, hold it in their heart and live it with every note. These 'Gleanings' are clearly the product of many, many heartfelt hours and years of loving music, being with music and musicians and working bloody hard. You don't get to places like this without that. He sings with such a mellow and melodic richness that carries easily over from traditional arrangements in rich Ayrshire vernacular to contempory smooth arrangements a tonal quality that is grand old oprey style worthy; I'm surprised I haven't heard his name before and glad I have now.
It's on songs such as 'My Lagan Love' that Gilchrist's seasoned and mellifluous voice is allowed the freedom to do its thing, and these are the highlights for me on album. Some of the more contemporary tracks I feel are less so- they're good songs - no question about that - but Gilchrist isn't just good, he's exceptional.
Alongside Gilchrist the accompanying musicians only ever add to each piece, and do so with such well-timed, thoughtful and harmonious delivery that its symbiosis is just delightful.
Guitarist Bob Woods intricate, thoughtful and beautifully delivered guitar accompaniment and counter melodies open the album with the track Baltic Street- a romantically nostalgic piece that sets the tone of the album well- a fireside sentimentality to the song without being cloying, the intricacy of guitar work managing to be solo worthy without stepping on Gilchrist's toes, a real art!
Carol Anderson's presence throughout is invaluable and consistently stunning. Well known as one of Scotland's finest fiddle players, she delivers her accompaniment with considered and flawless timing and emotion, joining Gilchrist particularly strongly on tracks 'A Waukrife Minnie' and 'The Trooper and the Maid'.
The fabulous Jonny Dyer, who plays with such seemingly effortless fluidity, expertly adds guitar piano and accordion, creating timeless parlour style collaboration on tracks such as 'A Rosebud by my early walk' and the intriguing and emotive 'The Stag'.
'My Aine Country' sees the vocal debut on the album by Moira Craig, who sings with a beautiful clear tone on this anthemic track, an arrangement of the traditional song by Allan Cunningham. Throughout 'Gleanings' her harmonies are felt with a fabulous combination of strength and subtlety and combine very well harmonically with that of Gilchrest's.
Multi-instrumentalist Vicki Swan completes this 'dream team' collaboration and displays her talents beautifully with equal thoughtful delivery, the inclusion of the Scandinavian Nyckelharpa (which I must admit was a new one on me!) is particularly stunning on the track Sir Patrick Spens, which adds a hauntingly mellow depth.
After 52 years spent in the dairy industry, I'm romantically imagining singing to the lucky cows in between folk club gigs and festival appearances, Gilchrist says the time is now for gigging and recording. For my part, I can say it certainly is- I'll be enjoying this album on many a moorland jaunt and more, look forward to the next and to catching him live on the circuit soon.