I quite envy the British. Somehow they have managed to attract a lot of young people to folk music. I admit that the youngsters are in a clear minority in the folk clubs I visit when I am over, but there is a multitude of very young, very good musicians and groups. And every year there is new talent emerging from the shadows.
CherryGrove is such a group. The members met at the Royal Conservatory of Scotland. About two years ago they started playing together, and this is their full length debut, after having released an EP in 2012. With five members they play the usual blend of instrumental sets and songs, and they do it very well.
The CD opens with the appropriately named “Wild One”. A good set, but much in a style you have come to expect. But on the following track they prove that their musical scope is wider than that. “Ain’t No Grave” is an American gospel song, recorded by Johnny Cash and many others. They give the song an almost traditional gospel treatment, with strong harmonies on the chorus. But the backing is guitar, a fiddle, Scottish harp and accordion. And in between verses they play a tune by Brian Finnigan. One of the best marriages of American and Scottish music I have heard, and the best track on the album.
But there are other goodies as well. “Ritos” is a fast instrumental written by the group’s harpist Sarah MacNeil. It has strong influences from Balkan music, starting off almost furiously, with lovely interplay between the fiddle and the accordion, and the guitar providing the background rhythm. The harp is there as well, and in the middle part it takes over. The music slows down, and suddenly you are transported to the mountains and valleys of Scotland or Wales, with just the harp accompanied by the piano. An accordion rhythm and some quick runs on the harp takes us back to the original melody. Brilliant!
“Home On My Mind” is a slower song by Rachel Walker, a singer-song writer who mostly writes in Gaelic. In a soft waltz time it is a song about longing for home. Around it CherryGrove have created a lovely backing using all their instruments. In the middle they include an instrumental interlude, starting off with harp and pizzicato fiddle. When the fiddle turns to bowing the piano comes, and then the guitar and the accordion. Marianne Fraser’s vocal comes back for the third verse. Another track to show the musical inventiveness of the group.
And the CD ends with another rousing instrumental set, “Osmosis”, with all the traditional stops and goes we have come to associate with modern Scottish folk music.
There are five more tracks, all performed in a brilliant manner, but not quite as strong as the ones I have mentioned. But there is enough here to make me want to hear a lot more from CherryGrove.
Apart from the two I have mentioned, CherryGrove consists of Grant McFarlane, accordion and the only male in the group, Heather Shelley, piano, and Mhairi Mackinnon, fiddle.