I've made no secret here of how much I love the music of Salt House, a Scottish folk trio whose last two album (Undersong and Huam) are often heard leaking through my studio door. Now two members of the band have released solo albums: The Living Mountain by Jenny Sturgeon and Landskein by Lauren MacColl. Both contain music rooted in the natural world, and both are exquisite.
Above: "Air & Light" by Jenny Sturgeon, from The Living Mountain. The album contains a cycle of songs inspired by Nan Shepherd's book of the same name: a pioneering work of nature writing set in the Cairngorms of north-east Scotland. Sturgeon explores "her own connection to this Highland area, as well as delving into Nan's philosophy of being in the mountains, and people's connection to the wild. The twelve songs take inspiration from the chapter titles of Nan's book; the lyrics tell of exploration, love, loss, and wonder at the natural world, from small scale mosses and moths to the wider landscape and ecosystem."
Below: "Water," another beautiful song from the same album.
Next, two songs by fiddle and viola player Lauren MacColl, from her haunting new album Landskein -- named for a word that Robert Macfarlane found in use in the Outer Hebrides, meaning: "The weaving and braiding of horizon lines often seen most clearly on hazy days in hill country."
Above: "Air Mullach Beinn Fhuathais (On Top of Ben Wyvis)." The song is from The Airs and melodies peculiar to the Highlands of Scotland and the Isles, collected by Captain Simon Fraser in 1816. The film and artwork above is by Mairearad Green.
Below: "Pentland Hills," inspired by the Pentland range south-west of Edinburgh.
The third member of Salt House is my friend Ewan MacPherson, who has released two solo albums to date -- as well as albums with Shooglenifty, Fribo, RoughCoastAudio and other bands, and work for the Modern Fairies project.
Above: "All the Kings (Scotland's Winter)," an adaptation of a poem by Orcadian poet Edwin Muir. "Scotland's Winter could be perceived on different levels," Ewan says. "The one which stands out for me is a nostalgic lament for better days past in relation to his homeland." The song first appeared on his album Norther in 2008, but this lovely new version was recorded in August.
Below, all three musicians together performing "Union of Crows." It's from the most recent Salt House album, Huam, released earlier this year.
The etching above is "The Rookery" by Eleanor Hughes (1882-1959). Born in New Zealand, she trained in England and is associated with the Newlyn group of artists in Cornwall.