RACHEL SERMANNI-TIED TO THE MOON-S.A.Y.A. NOMINEE.

RACHEL SERMANNI-TIED TO THE MOON-S.A.Y.A. NOMINEE.

At this time of year, Scottish musician’s thoughts turn to the most prestigious prize in  music, the Scottish Album Of The Year Award.  Albums released between  April 2015 and March 2016 were eligible for the 2016 Scottish Album Of The Year. However, now only twenty albums remain. The ‘great and good’ of Scottish music have sat in judgement and produced what they believe to be a short-list of the twenty best albums. These twenty albums will be reduced to a shortlist of ten.

The winner will receive the trophy and a cheque for £20,000. The other nine artists on the shortlist, are described as ‘runner-ups’. They received runners-up prizes of £1,000 and a Graduate Design Commission valued at £2,500.  This years winner will be announced at the glittering Scottish Album Of The Year Award. There’s only one problem; this year’s event takes place in Paisley. The Grammy’s take place in Los Angeles, but the  Scottish Album Of The Year Award takes place in Paisley. One artist who will surely be at the  Scottish Album Of The Year Award is Rachel Sermanni, who last year released sophomore her album Tied To The Moon in July 2015.

Rachel Sermanni can’t remember life without music. It has always been there, and has been a constant in her life. This was certainly the case as long as Rachel can remember. Growing up, music provided the soundtrack for Rachel and her siblings. Music also provided Rachel with one of her earliest memories.

Even today, Rachel can vividly remember her father teaching her how to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on a penny whistle. Little did Rachel’s father realise, that his younger daughter would embark upon a musical career.

He certainly never realised that on the 7th November 1991. That’s when Rachel Sermanni was born, in Carrbridge, a tiny village in the highlands of Scotland, with a population of 708. Rachel’s mother worked for the N.H.S. and her father was a dog handler for the police. Carrbridge’s newest resident would one day, become its most famous. That was still to come.

As Rachel grew up, music surrounded her. At an early age, her taught her to play the penny whistle. Soon, Rachel and her siblings were singing and even making up songs. Later, Rachel would learn to play the guitar. By then, Rachel was immersing herself into music.

Especially, traditional Scottish music. At school, Rachel heard and performed traditional Scottish music. She enjoying singing in front of an audience, and was a natural performer. It seemed even at an early age the world was Rachel Sermanni’s stage.

Back home, Rachel listened to an eclectic selection of music. Everything from Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Van Morrison, right through to Eva Cassidy, Joni Mitchell, Bjork and P.J. Harvey. Along with her love of traditional Scottish music, this would shape Rachel as a singer and songwriter.

By the time Rachel was sixteen, she was already writing her own songs. She was already drawing experience from her childhood, the landscape and the vivid dreams she was already having. All this played their part in Rachel’s early songs, one of which made its way onto her debut album, Under Mountains, which was released in 2012. That was five years away. Rachel still had musical apprenticeship to serve.

This resulted in Rachel playing in local pubs. Later, Rachel moved to Glasgow, where she was a familiar face at traditional music nights throughout the city. Rachel was one of many hopefuls who turned up, clutching a guitar. However, Rachel stood out from the rest. All she needed was a break.

It came in 2009. Rachel went to see Mumford and Sons at Ullapool’s Loopallu festival. After they played their set, Rachel discovered them in a local pub. She asked them if they wanted to jam. Later, Rachel and Mumford and Sons were jamming on Ullapool’s beach. This lead Mumford and Sons to invite Rachel to open for them at Dingwalls, in London in 2011. Before that, Rachel headed off on her travels.

A year after her encounter with Mumford and Sons, Rachel travelled to the Middle East in 2010. However, she wasn’t alone. Accompanying her were other Scottish musicians. They were going work on a project where traditional Scottish music and musicians collaborated with their counterparts from Jordan. For Rachel, this was a fascinating insight into another culture, and what happened when two cultures were combined. This experiment was repeated in 2011.

This time, Rachel headed to India, where she embarked upon another collaboration. Her collaboraties were a mixture of tradition Indian musicians and some of the biggest names in Bollywood. Among them, were Bikram Ghosh and Papon Angaraag Mahanta. They toured India with Rachel, and began work on an E.P. which has still to be completed. While this journey to India was one of the highlights of 2011 for Rachel, the biggest highlight had still to come.

It came when Rachel opened for Mumford and Sons at Dingwalls, in London in 2011. This was a far cry from a jam session on Ullapool beach. However, won friends and influenced people that night at Dingwalls, including many within the music industry. Later in 2011, Rachel was touring with Fink. By the end of 2011, Rachel Sermanni was a name on many people’s lips. She was one of the hardest working musicians of 2011.

If 2011 had been a big year for Rachel Sermanni, 2012 surpassed it. Rachel released her debut album Under Mountains in 2012. It reached number twenty-six in Scotland, and number twenty-three on the British Indie charts. Considering Rachel wasn’t signed to one of the bigger indie labels, this was a successful debut album. Her debut album was heard far and wide.

In 2012, Rachel Sermanni made her debut at the Celtic Connection festival in Glasgow. This was just the first of a number of high profile appearances she would make.

Between 2012 and 2015, Rachel Sermanni has toured far and wide. From America and Canada, to Europe and Australia, Rachel has been a familiar face. She has opened for Rumer and Elvis Costello, and played some of the biggest festivals. This includes the Greenman Festival, Cambridge Folk Festival, Orkney Folk Festival, T In the Park, Wickerman, Deershed, Loopallu, Calgary Folk Festival, CMW, Dawson City Music Festival, Interstellar Rodeo, Vancouver Folk Festival, Woodford Folk Festival and Iceland Airwave. It’s no wonder Rachel Sermanni has the reputation as one of the hardest working musicians.

Apart from touring extensively, Rachel Sermanni has also released numerous singles and E.P.s, including The Bothy Sessions, Black Currents, Eggshells, Waltz, The Boatshed Sessions and Everything Changes. Then there’s Rachel’s 2012 debut album Under Mountains, and a live album recorded at the Dawson City Music Festival. However, it’s three long years since Rachel Sermanni last released an album. Back then, she was only twenty-one and had just embarked upon her career as Nu Folk singer.

Three years later, and Rachel Sermanni is back with her sophomore album Tied To The Moon. Considering how busy Rachel has been, it’s amazing she has found time to write ten new tracks. They were inspired by Rachel’s childhood, her experiences as woman, instinct and inhibition. The ten songs are much more poetic and rhythmic. They were recorded by Rachel’s talented band, who made a journey across the water.

With her talented band in tow, Rachel made her way to the beautiful, picturesque Island Of Lewis. What better place could there be to record an album? Especially, with one of the veterans of Scottish music producing Tied To The Moon.

Happily ensconced on the Island Of Lewis, Rachel set about recording ten tracks at Further North Studios. Producing Tied To The Moon was none other than Colin MacLeod, the man behind the Mull Historical Society. He also played guitars and pedal steel. Colin was joined in the rhythm section by Louis Linklater Abbott on drums and percussion, while Gordon Skene played bass and cello. Jane Hepburn played fiddle, while Jennifer Austin played piano, organ, fiddle and added backing vocals. Nicola and Fiona MacLeod aded backing vocals on In This Love. Rachel added backing vocals and played guitar. These ten tracks became Tied To The Moon, which was recently released by Middle Of Nowhere. This long-awaited and much-anticipated album marks a welcome return from Rachel Sermanni, Scotland’s Queen of Nu Folk.

Opening Tied To The Moon is Run. From the opening bars, it’s best described as dramatic. That’s the case from the moment the a guitar shrieks and the rhythm section lock into a tight, moody groove. Rachel meanwhile, delivers a vocal full of disbelief. She can’t quite comprehend what happened the night before: “I have made a mess I know, there is nothing you can throw, last night I was one shadow, trying to kill another.” Soon, there’s a sense of acceptance and later, melancholy in Rachel’s voice that her relationship is over. By then, the rhythm section and atmospheric washes of Hammond organ combine with Rachel’s ethereal vocal. Complimenting her vocal are ethereal, cooing harmonies. So does the hypnotic, moody, broody groove. When combined, they more than whet the listener’s appetite for the rest of Tied To The Moon.

Wine Sweet Wine has a quite different sounds. There’s a much more country tinged sound. It’s almost a case of spright outta Nashville. As a guitar is strummed, the piano is played deliberately and the drums provide the heartbeat. Rachel’s vocal is weary and wistful. She’s just realised that: “I just can’t be with someone, who wants just anyone.” So she has to leave. “I cannot sit on the shelf, while you play with someone else.” As Rachel delivers the lyrics, sadness, frustration and anger well up. Behind her a country tinged arrangement replaces Rachel’s vocal. When Rachel’s vocal returns, the lyrics are still cinematic. Pictures unfold before your eyes, and you find yourself taking sides, and feeling sorry for the woman who has been wronged. It’s portrayed realistically by Rachel, and is like a short story set to music.

A guitar is carefully plucked as Old Ladies Lament unfolds. The arrangement is understated and allows Rachel’s tender, melancholy vocal to take centre-stage. She sings about a child growing old and leaving home for the first time. There’s a sense of sadness in Rachel’s voice. Partly, because the character in the song’s child is leaving home. However, she also realises she’s growing old, and is alone. Later a telling and beautiful line is: “I would do it all again, I’d have my heart be broken.”

Slowly, and deliberately Rachel delivers the introduction to I’ve Got a Girl. Soon, the arrangement grows in power and drama. An electric guitar dominates the arrangement. It’s joined by the rhythm section and organ. At one point the arrangement almost waltzes along. However, the one constant is the drama. Rachel’s vocal is equally dramatic and deliberate. By then, there’s a brief nod to Cabaret. Mostly, though, I’ve Got a Girl sounds as if it belongs on the soundtrack to the new series of Twin Peaks as slowly, deliberately and dramatically, Rachel articulates the lyrics, bringing them to life.

Just like Old Ladies Lament, the arrangement to Don’t Fade has a much more understated sound. It’s obviously been influenced by the folk and traditional music Rachel listened to growing up. As Rachel tenderly and thoughtfully delivers the lyrics, she’s accompanied by a piano and guitar. That’s all that’s needed to frame Rachel’s lyrics. They take pride of place, allowing you to hear truly beautiful lyrics. This includes: “don’t fade before, you reach the shore, I want to see your face.” As Rachel delivers the lyrics, her vocal is truly heartfelt, hopeful and needy.

Tractor has a much more “poppy” sound, and shows another side to Rachel Sermanni. She’s a truly versatile artist, one that’s capable of writing cerebral lyrics. That’s the case here. Rachel’s part poet, poet philosopher. As she delivers an impassioned vocal, behind her, the rhythm section provide a tight groove.

Producer Colin MacLeod unleashes washes of pedal steel. They add an atmospheric hue. Especially, as Rachel delivers lines like: “if you choose, you can paint your own truth,” and “all this living, just to lie down and love.” Poet, philosopher, singer and songwriter, Rachel Sermanni is a truly talented artist, one whose capable of combining social comment and subtle hooks.

Ferryman has a much more traditional sound. It’s obviously been inspired by traditional Scottish music. Accompanied by just a guitar Rachel tenderly paints pictures. Imagery is ever-present. It’s possible to picture the Ferryman, the journey across the water and the lovestruck lovers. However, there’s a twist in the tale. “They knocked hard on the door, boots hard on the floor, and took us down to the shore, told us no more, we could be.” As Rachel’s wistful, heartbroken vocal drops out, it’s replaced by strings. They replicate the melancholy and sadness, before setting the scene for Rachel’s as ponderously she sings: “I asked the old man about crossing the river?”

Briefly, Rachel sounds like Suzanne Vega on Banks Are Broken. Then she slowly she delivers a needy, heartfelt vocal. With just a guitar for company, her vocal becomes wistful, as she sings: “tonight is the last time, I get to hold you fast and fast go the hours.” Then there’s a twist in the tale. The arrangement takes on a country sound, and Colin MacLeod’s vocal enters. In an instant, he becomes Lee Hazlewood to Rachel’s Nancy Sinatra, or more likely, Mark Lanegan to Rachel’s Isobel Campbell. Washes of pedal steel, piano and hypnotic drums joins with the guitar. Occasional bursts of cooing harmonies are added. So is a cello. Everything is added at just the right time by producer Colin MacLeod. He’s also the perfect foil for Rachel, they’re like yin and yang on Banks Are Broken.

Begin is an acoustic ballad. Rachel’s wistful is accompanied by a guitar. Her vocal is heartfelt. Especially as she sings: “do you trust, give you all that I can, if you let me.” Before long there’s a sense of uncertainty in Rachel’s vocal. “I think we’re thinking the same, what are you thinking.” Does he feel what she feels? She’s no longer sure. By then, she’s racked with insecurity and uncertainty. That becomes apparent when Rachel sings: “swim in the lake, we’ll be sinking, diving diving, how to we begin?” As a guitar is played firmly and deliberately and joined by a mandolin. They provide the backdrop for Rachel’s ethereal, cooing, scat on this tale of love, insecurity and uncertainty.

This Love closes Tied To The Moon. It’s a tale of love and betrayal. At first, there’s a sense of hope. Especially as Rachel sings lyrics like: “this love is a blue sky, this love is a sweet tooth.” As Rachel delivers the lyrics, there’s no sense of hope or joy in her vocal. Far from it. She’s been cheated upon. She has betrayal and revenge on her mind. “Revenge is making a comeback,” sings Rachel, “self pity searches for a rope.” However, despite her “making a comeback,” Rachel realises that “This Love is no love at all.” This proves a sobering end to Tied To The Moon, Rachel Sermanni’s long-awaited sophomore album.

Three years have passed since Rachel Sermanni released her debut album Under Mountains in 2012. Since then, Rachel has toured almost non-stop. She’s one of the hardest working singer-songwriters. Rachel Sermanni is also one of the most talented. Her new album Tied To The Moon, which was released on Middle Of Nowhere, is proof of this.

Tied To The Moon is what I would describe as an old school album. It features just ten tracks, and lasts thirty-nine minutes. That’s what albums used to be like, way before the compact disc. Back then, space on a vinyl album was at premium, so an album featured what was an artist’s best work. That’s the case with Tied To The Moon. The ten tracks are variously beautiful, cerebral, cinematic and dramatic. However, cinematic is the perfect description of Tied To The Moon.

On Tied To The Moon, Rachel Sermanni paints pictures with her lyrics. Scenes and scenarios unfold before the listener’s eyes. Characters come to life. Listeners share their sadness, pain and joy. They empathise at their uncertainty and insecurity. Especially, when Rachel sings of heartbreak and betrayal. Her voice breathes life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics. As a result, the characters in Rachel’s songs become real. So does their flaws, and the pain, hope and sadness they experience. Not many singers-songwriters have the ability to do so. Especially an artist who previously, has only released one studio album.

However, Rachel Sermanni is unlike most artists. Although she’s just twenty-four, Rachel is already a talented and accomplished artist. The last four years she’s spent touring, has been time well spent. Rachel has used that time to hone her songs and sound. As a result, she was more than ready to record her sophomore album, Tied To The Moon.

When recording began, Rachel Sermanni brought onboard Colin MacLeod as producer. He brings out the best in Rachel, framing her vocals with arrangements that veer between country, folk, pop and rock. Often, there’s a twist in the tale or a surprise in store. None more so, than on Tractor, which has single written all over it. Other times, Rachel seems to have been inspired by everyone from Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Van Morrison, right through to Eva Cassidy, Joni Mitchell, Suzanne Vega, Bjork and P.J. Harvey. Their influence can be heard throughout Tied To The Moon. So can the traditional Scottish music Rachel Sermanni grew up listening to. It has influenced and shaped Rachel Sermanni as a singer and songwriter, as she makes the next step on what will surely be the road to stardom.

There’s no doubt about that. Rachel Sermanni is one of the brightest prospects in Scottish music. A great future awaits The Queen of Scottish Nu Folk. Her new album Tied To The Moon showcases a talented and versatile singer-songwriter. Tied To The Mood will introduce Rachel Sermanni to a much wider audience, and will take Rachel Sermanni one more step along the road to stardom.

RACHEL SERMANNI-TIED TO THE MOON-S.A.Y.A. NOMINEE.

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