From the opening arpeggio of La Valse a Huite An”, it is obvious that Ailie Robertson is no ordinary harpist, and Little Lights is going to be no ordinary album. It is the third album from the highly talented Scot, and the first to feature a paired-down band, featuring only Natalie Haas on cello and Tim Edey on guitar and accordion.
Robertson’s playing is virtuosic yet refined, and the beautiful, calming nature of the music is maintained in both the serene numbers, such as the gorgeous The Wild Geese, and the more upbeat numbers, of which the excellent medley of Around the Fairy Fort / The Shetland Fiddler is a great example.
The much-reduced backing, compared to Robertson’s previous albums, really helps to bring out the elegance of her playing, which surely makes her one of Britain’s finest contemporary harpists. This is demonstrated particularly on tracks such as The Fairy Queen, in which the harp melds and mixes with the cello and accordion to form a beguiling blend of sound.
The album’s finest moment is perhaps its finale, the superb Glimmer, which, in Robertson’s own words, serves as “a reminder even in the darkest times there can shine a glimmer of hope”. The graceful melody and fabulous technique in the harp really do manage to carry this message, and the track is a heart-warming finish to what is truly a wonderful album.
Little Lights certainly firmly establishes the harp as an excellent solo instrument in the folk world, and Ailie Robertson as one of its finest practitioners.Will Wilkins
Released on Lorimer Records on 1st January 2015
1. La Valse a Huit Ans
2. The Kilmovee / Sailing Down Fulton Street
3. Lunchtime Boredom
4. The Wild Geese
5. Old Maids of Galway / Downey’s / Brian Kelly’s
6. Around the Fairy Fort / The Shetland Fiddler
7. La Gueussinette
8. Trip to Dinan / Princess Nancy’s
9. The Fairy Queen
10. Lili’s Hornpipe/The Harp and Shamrock