Scottish musician Hannah Read now lives in Brooklyn but on her new album Way Out I’ll Wander she keeps her sounds intimate and rootsy rather than reflecting the bright lights of the city. Listening to her music you feel like you’re walking in the gloaming, along a moorland path somewhere far from civilisation. The simple black and white cover conveys the stark beauty of the folk music contained within this album.
Opening with the quiet strum of Moorland Bare sets the tone, and the lyrics are taken from a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson who himself was a traveller – his ill health forcing him to seek out warmer climes. Adapting poems for music can be a complex and not always successful task, but in this case the folk style helps to bring these words back to life again. The music feels eerily evocative of another time.
The gorgeous sound on Ringleader reminds me of the excellent I’m With Her album, which is no surprise considering Sarah Jarosz actually adds vocals to this album. Further atmosphere is created by the short fiddle Interlude.
I’ll Still Sing Your Praises ruminates on a failed relationship – things did not work out but that doesn’t mean there’s bitterness. On Alexander a man is haunted by his past and the memory of war. When she sings ‘Alex, you are not alone’ she could be speaking to any of us, such is the warmth in her voice.
The gorgeous video for She Took A Gamble was filmed on the Isle of Eigg – depicting her alone on an expansive beach, before joyously frolicking in the no doubt freezing sea. It is a breathtaking beautiful place and yet you understand why people decide to leave it behind. Sometimes you have to go fearlessly forward into the unknown world to find what out you want from life.
On Boots the joy of her new love shines through in every note. It’s a lovely moment, but perhaps a more defined chorus would help further elevate a song like this. The title track Way Out I’ll Wander starts with glorious fiddle, sounding like a snowy Scottish afternoon walk through the woods. She sings of the ground and soil below her feet, with the music echoing her earthy tone.
Hannah Read may be out wandering the world but musically she does not stray too far from home. Way Out I’ll Wander is an intriguing listen from a promising Scottish talent.