Album Review – Carrie Tree

carrie tree

Carrie Tree -‘The Canoe’ (Wild Cedar Records)

Over the years of writing this blog (and to anyone still reading, it may come as a surprise to you to learn that it’s coming up for thirteen), I’ve had a bit of a love-hate relationship with singer-songwriters. But cutting to the chase, whilst Carrie Tree had been unknown to me until the release of this, her third album, it’s an album that has grown on this listener, and become an album that’s a pleasure to listen to, rather than one simply to be reviewed.

There’s a beauty within this album that bewitches and entices. The songs are beautifully scored, and actually command your attention. Rather than just being about the singer and her songs, they are delivered and presented in a way that suggests magic is at work here. It’s really not just another pop-folk record like…too many to list, really. Mostly recorded in the UK and Iceland, with a whole host of international musicians

While the record is perhaps still finding its feet over the first two tracks, the power within kicks in on the title track, the third one on the running order. Particularly poignant is ‘Human Kindness.’ In well-intentioned but less skilled hands, this song about a refugee fleeing a war-torn country could have been worthy but dull. Sung with her twin brother Mark, the lines about ‘I’ve slept in the rubble/screaming at the bombs this is not in my name’ have both poignancy and humanity.

The minimal approach to scoring the record is reminiscent at times of later-period Talk Talk, particularly on ‘Deep as We Dare,’ a beautifully autumnal song. It’s effective, and never once does it get syrupy over the album. In fact, it’s a mark of strength that not only do individual songs start to stand out over repeated listens, but that what the best track is changes.

There’s no doubt that most singer-songwriters write from the heart, Carrie Tree has the ability to deliver upon the promise within. Those who aspire to tread this well-worn path would be advised to take note. What they may struggle to emulate is the voice, simultaneously fragile and smoky…

The Canoe is released on April 26 on wild Cedar Records


New Dead Can Dance video

Dead Can Dance 2019

At the end of last year, I gave Dead Can Dance my album of the year for their first album in six years, Dionysus (you can read my review of the album here  and look at my list of albums of the year here.)

The duo of Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry have been responsible for some of the most exciting and original music over the last forty years. This excerpt from Dionysus, ‘The Invocation’ is accompanied by a rather lovely video. It was made by a Bulgarian company called Wonderswamp who state in the press release:

When we were contacted by Dead Can Dance we were very excited, as we had been fans of the band for many years and this was a great opportunity to create something for an act we admire.
When we heard ‘The Invocation’ the excitement grew as the song features motifs inspired by Bulgarian folklore music, and to see that our music and traditions can inspire them motivated us further. It was also an opportunity to create a narrative for a video based on ancient traditions that used to be practiced in our country and are still somehow preserved to the present day.
The match between these peculiar rituals and the band’s music could not be better.”



Dead Can Dance are conducting a European tour in May and June, and if you are going to see them I am very jealous…

The continuing story of Oceans Over Alderan

Oceans Over Alderaan

Just after New Year (indeed on January 1), I wrote about Oceans Over Alderan, who were just about to release their debut single ‘Sevenfour.’

The band are Alice Deacon (vocals), Steve Trenell (bass), Joe Wylie (drums), and Barry Parkinson (guitar).  As is the way with with these things (usually, when things are going well), the band are due to release their second single ‘Falters’ on April 19, and you can stream the video below. It will be released on their own The Recording Industry Is Dead Records. It is another sublime slice of post-rock meets shoegaze, and very welcome to these ears. Please spread the word.

Future live dates can be found here.





Interview – Jenna Reid

Jenna Reid

Ahead of her Queen’s Hall gig this weekend, Jenna Reid calls up 17 Seconds for a chat.

Earlier this year, Jenna Reid released her latest album Working Hands. Her fourth solo album is fabulous – drawing on traditional Scottish folk, and feeling utterly contemporary at the same time. Apart from three traditional Shetland tunes, she’s been responsible for writing it. The Queen’s Hall gig is the first time she’s played it as a solo artist – indeed ‘the first we’ve done the album since we launched it in January at Celtic Connections.’ She adds: ‘It will be really exciting – the Queen’s Hall is a favourite of mine, it’s an amazing venue [17 Seconds can totally agree to this, by the way!]. It’s probably a special one for McFalls, as well, because that’s their home turf, as it were, and they’ve probably played in there countless times, so it’s really exciting for me to be playing with them there.’

(Ah yes, McFalls…otherwise known as Mr. McFall’s Chamber, the group lead by Robert McFall, who have played on a number of 17 Seconds faves. We digress…)

Raised in Shetland, she’s now based with her family in a small village not far from Glasgow. ‘I’d love to say I lived up in Shetland,’ she says, wistfully. ‘I moved to Glasgow when I was seventeen, it’s the nearest I can get to Shetland, here!’

‘It’s been a lot of years since I did any solo touring,’ she reflects. In her early years she titled it the Jenna Reid Band, ‘but it wasn’t really a band, like Blazin’ Fiddles, it was a solo effort and I was being accompanied by musicians.’

‘I’ve got a really close relationship with Harris Playfair, who’s a piano player from Shetland from the same village as me [Quarff],’ she adds. ‘To me, on the piano, he’s untouchable! We’ve played together for maybe fifteen years, maybe more, and I specifically wanted to work with him.’

She was nine when she first picked up a violin, found in her grandmother’s attic in Ayrshire. It sounds like something out of a fairy story, but in her case, it’s true. The culture of the time helped too. ‘In Shetland at the time, all schools when I was growing up, had fully funded music tuition. I think there was, like, five fiddle tutors that went round every school in Shetland.’ She recalls; ‘There were twenty children in our Primary – and so we were getting a one-to-one lesson every week! It’s unheard-of now, unfortunately.’

And the fiddle from Granny’s attic? It’s played by her Bethany in RANT, another of the groups that Jenna plays with. Jenna herself  was lucky enough to get a bursary from the Donald Dewar Awards Fund in 2008, which enabled her to get a new instrument to her. Said violin is two hundred and fifty years old.

She kept on studying – and at the age of seventeen, she left Shetland for Glasgow, to study at what was then the RSAMD [Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland]. It was here that she joined Dòchas, the Gaelic band, and latter played with Blazin’ Fiddles, of which she modestly confesses to pinching herself about playing with. 

I ask her about what to expect from her live performances. ‘It’s always seated, a listening kind of audience. Largely, even with the Blazing Fiddles music, which is louder and rockier, it still works better for us to play to a seated audience.’

She won’t be resting much – after this gig, she has performances in both London and Scotland, and then goes back onto RANT and Blazin’ Fiddles calendars. ‘But there’ll be some down time in Shetland to look forward to!’ she adds with a twinkle in her voice.

Jenna Reid plays Edinburgh Queens Hall on April 7, with Harris Playfair and Mr. McFall’s Chamber. She will also be playing at London’s Kingsplace on April 28 and Perth’s Horsecross on April 29.