Simple and delightful, third time’s a Charm for Edinburgh band.
‘The Flood’ is Scottish quartet Wayward Jane’s third album and it is a keeper. The Edinburgh band merges American and Scottish traditions and refreshes them both. All four talented multi-instrumentalists sing and three of them (Dan Abrahams, Sam Gillespie, and Michael Starkey) play guitar. Abrahams also plays double bass, Gillespie the wooden flute, and Starkey the five-string banjo. Rachel Petyt’s fiddle enriches and adds emotion to the mix. Individual members of the band also work on other projects –Abrahams and Petyt with the innovative Dowally; Abrahams with the soul band The FOO Birds; Gillespie is one half of Northumbrian folk group The Brothers Gillespie, and Starkey is part of old-time duo Hannah Read & Michael Starkey. ‘The Flood’ is what happens when you bring all this talent together.
The first three songs set the pattern for the album. The first two, ‘Edinburgh Rain’ and the instrumental ‘Brokeback’ are original and the third, Elizabeth Cotton’s ‘Shake Sugaree’, is a classic. ‘Edinburgh Rain’ leads off with an instrumental introduction reminiscent of the sounds you might hear in Tennessee, simplicity made complex by multiple instruments and musicians. But when the vocals start you know you aren’t in Knoxville. The song is a paean to Edinburgh and it is sung by a Scottish voice. ‘Brokeback’ is a great showcase of the whole band’s instrumental abilities and ‘Shake Sugaree’ highlights Wayward Jane’s ability to sing. The album also has another classic, Fred Cockerham’s ‘Little Statchel’, the video of which was released before the album and featured on AUK.
‘Crossing Over Water’ opens with two guitars that ring like a carillon. Then they are joined by a banjo, then a fiddle, all playing the same simple refrain. The tempo picks up and Pytet starts to sing. The piece is a gem, inspired by the experience of refugees. Its politics are poetic, gently painting pictures, not campaign posters. The song winds up with the same refrain with which it began. This is the only song on the album with Pytet as the lead singer. This is too bad, as she has a great voice which makes this song one of the album’s highlights.
Close your eyes as you listen and the chief impression left by ‘The Flood’ is that Wayward Jane’s musicians have played many a ceilidh and in more than a few low-ceilinged pubs with roaring fires and patrons who actually listen to music. They aren’t a bar band, used to having to play over the sound of well-oiled conversations. Their music is gentle, giving each other space to fill with the individual sounds of guitars, banjo, bass and fiddle. Their voices create complex harmonies, instrumentals and vocals combining in unique and timeless music that conjures up the various traditions upon which they draw while reflecting the moment. One minute you just want to sit and appreciate the sweet sounds accompanying their poetry in ‘Down The River’ and ‘Liberty’. Then your feet are a’tappin, itchin to dance to ‘Little Bazoo’. This is music to relish.