published: 10 /
Spellbinding third album from folk trio Salt House which combines original material with reworkings of poems
Folk trio Salt House took themselves off to rural Argyllshire to finish writing and recording their third album, which they named ‘Huam’, after the Scots word for the call of an owl.
I learned recently that the ‘twit-twoo’ call we are all taught in childhood is, in fact, the combined sound of the female and then the answering call of the male. I doubt this factoid will be news to Salt House’s Jenny Sturgeon, whose doctorate involved studying seabirds, but it’s not a bad metaphor all the same for the interplay and collaboration that is in evidence across this record.
There was, in fact, a long gap between the band’s first and second albums. During this time, the line-up changed with Sturgeon, an established solo artist in her own right, completing the trio. Working again with producer Andy Bell, who manned the decks for 2018’s ‘Undersong’, the consistent personnel and quick follow-up suggests that Salt House are an established ‘band’ now, not just a project.
This album sees Salt House combine six original compositions with four new settings of poems by Scottish and American authors. Their aim is to make the new songs sound like they have always been there, while breathing new life into the old songs. In this they certainly succeed. ‘If I Am Lucky’ plays out like a long-lost standard, beautifully sung and arranged, while ‘Lord Ullin’s Daughter’ tenses with wild energy under the surface.
A strong sense of place is immediately present in the songs – whether they tell of falling snow, log-fires and foxes gently creeping outside or listening for the wind in the trees while waiting for a ferry crossing. The arrangements are meticulous – with the gentle hum of pump organs and harmoniums, lilting acoustic guitars occasionally penetrated by fiddle. The music feels calm, but clearly alive.
Too dense and full of ideas to fully process on your first sitting, the songs demand you to revisit and re-listen. ‘Huam’ is an album I will be returning to throughout the year – I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find it still near the top of my record pile come Christmas. A spellbinding listen
All Shall Be Still
Mountain of Gold
William and Elsie
Hope Is the Thing with Feathers
If I Am Lucky
Lord Ullin's Daughter
The Same Land
Union of Crows