Spell Songs - Gifts of Light

2024 live recording

Gifts of Light - Spell Songs

the bright young folk review

For those who are unfamiliar with the work of Spell Songs, their latest album, Gifts of Light, may well be the best place to start. It is the first live album recorded by the folk septet, and features performances from two gigs at stellar venues: the first taking place in 2021 at London Natural History Museum’s Hintze Hall and the second in 2022 at Birmingham Symphony Hall. The songs themselves can be treated as a ’greatest hits’ from Spell Songs’ previous two albums.

The previous works in question are a gorgeous musical interpretation and development of two books by critically-acclaimed author Robert Macfarlane & award-winning illustrator Jackie Morris, namely The Lost Words and The Lost Spells. These albums are a joyous listening experience; transversing literature, language, art and a musical genius that is only accentuated when listening to the songs as a live performance on Gifts of Light. There is something very special about knowing that everything that can be heard on the album is exactly as it was at those concerts; the music is preserved perfectly and it really highlights the extraordinary talent of Spell Songs as there are no blemishes in the performance whatsoever.

The flawless performance is courtesy of the members of Spell Songs: Karine Polwart, Kris Drever, Julie Fowlis, Seckou Keita, Rachel Newton, Beth Porter, and Jim Molyneux, who between them have seventeen BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and twelve Scots Trad Awards. Not a bad basis for a band.

There is one new track on this album and it sums up the whole project perfectly. Entitled Otter, this song is a section of the Spell Songs performance where artist Jackie Morris paints two otters from scratch on stage, supported with a soft and calming instrumental interlude. This moment is a total intersection of all the mediums mentioned earlier, and is a wonderful image to picture as a listener when hearing this song.

It is also worth noting that the performance at The Natural History Museum was part of a fundraiser, which ended up raising over £105,000 for the museum’s Urban Nature Project. This feels particularly poignant as Spell Songs’ music is very much a call for nature; a hopeful and encouraging plea for humans to reconnect with the wild. Gifts of Light has an inherently uplifting feel even through its more somber moments and seeks to soothe the listener at every turn.

Harvey Coates

Released digitally December 1 2023 by Hudson Records in partnership with Quercus Records. Produced by Andy Bell.

1. Bird of the Blizzard - Live at Birmingham Symphony Hall
2. Thrift (Dig in, Dig in) - Live at Birmingham Symphony Hall
3. Red is Your Art - Live at Birmingham Symphony Hall
4. Otter - Live at Birmingham Symphony Hall
5. Charm On, Goldfinch - Live at Birmingham Symphony Hall
6. Heartwood - Live at The Natural History Museum
7. Curlew - Live at Birmingham Symphony Hall
8. Little Astronaut - Live at Birmingham Symphony Hall
9. Heron - Live at Birmingham Symphony Hall
10. The Lost Words Blessing - Live at Birmingham Symphony Hall

Spell Songs discography