When you’ve been listening to music that though worthy fails to push your buttons, there’s always a silver lining just round the corner and in this case she’s called Hannah Rarity. Appropriate name there, indeed she is a rarity. I first came found her when Niteworks crossed my path, their glorious modernist retake on Highland traditions created absorbing items, amongst them ‘Gloomy Winter,’ which featured young Hannah. Since then her star has ascended. With this album it’s easy to hear why.
This second collection of folk material and covers with a meaning was curated during the down time enforced by the pandemic and Rarity confesses in the promotional material that she wanted to focus on more poignant numbers and push forward in terms of arrangements and settings. To that end she’s shipped in decent session players and co-writers as well as judicious items to give her own spin. Chief amongst them is the Julie Matthews penned ‘Come The Hour,’ a lovely glide of harmonies built over a synth echo and bass, it’s sensitivity is majorly impressive.
Other slices that’re irresistible include ‘ We’ll Meet Again,’ which refers not to any war scenario of soldiers and sweethearts but rather the afore mentioned Covid and lock down. ‘She Must Be Mad,’ is one of Rarity’s own which deftly questions what is and isn’t acceptable for a woman to try and moreover says ‘why not?’ ‘Scotland Yet,’ is a Caledonian standard yet here full of relevance, sympathy and tenderness, a beguiling thing.
With members of Manran, Blue Rose Code and a string section fleshing out the songs Hannah Rarity is making a serious play for a wider audience. Keen production by Innes White and Iain Hutchinson helps make the complete recording that ‘To Have You Near’ undoubtedly is. One for the ‘Best Of Year’ list no doubt about it.