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Shire Folk Album of 2019
Josienne Clarke album
Mercury – Songprint Recordings
After having won the 2018 BBC Folk Award for ‘Best Traditional Track’ for Strata’s ‘The Banks of Newfoundland’, you might have expected Scottish singer Siobhan Miller’s next album to be an all trad affair, but not a bit of it. Miller’s third solo album, Mercury, is an entirely self-penned affair (well, if you include some co-writes with Euan Burton, Kris Drever, and Admiral Fallow’s Louis Abbott), and a beautiful thing it is too
With a general theme of memory, the album takes us back to sixth-century Christian monks on the Isle of Iona (‘The Western Edge’) and forward to the picket line (the title track, ‘Mercury’). The melodies of the songs take a little while to embed themselves, but once there they take a firm hold. Miller has a gorgeous, melodious voice and she’s backed by the aforementioned Drever, Burton and Abbott, as well as Eddi Reader, Innes White, Megan Henderson and Lauren MacColl. With expert support like this, Miller is free to shapeshift out of the folk idiom and try indie stylings on ‘Keep Me Moving On’, a country-tinged ‘The Western Edge’, and even gospel-flecked country soul on the superb standout, ‘Sorrow When the Day is Done’. ‘Strandline’ and the wonderful ‘Slowest Days’, on the other hand, are both reflective and capture a certain sort of ennui that’s as enjoyable as it is short-lived.
Steeped in folk music from an early age, it’s no surprise that, whatever her other musical influences, Miller has produced an album that has folk at its heart, and one whose warm, autumnal tones will linger long after the season has passed.