Album Review / Lauren MacColl: Landskein

A long time ago, in a land far, far away…

That’s how it feels when I remember a day this past winter, just over half a year ago. Me and my wife were in Glasgow for our second Celtic Connections and we had managed to get tickets to Lauren MacColl’s solo recital at the City Hall’s Recital room. In case you haven’t been there, it’s a fairly tiny space, just a big room, really, with max seating capacity around 60 people, if even that.

It would be impossible to hold a concert there today, for obvious reasons, and I count us very lucky indeed to have been there. And grateful, too, because it was an utterly magical hour of music from her upcoming album of old Scottish airs. The recital shone in its serenity, expertly performed music and Lauren’s warm personality; it was one of those performances that transport you, especially in that quite intimate and acoustically immaculate space.

And now we have the album, thank God. I get very much the same feeling from it as I did at the concert: the music is very focused, with immense inner strength – who could guess a single fiddle can be such a mindblowingly strong instrument. The tunes carry lots of history but have a timeless quality as well.

In fact, it’s very hard for me to say anything clever or insightful of Landskein, or even pick out specific favorites. Landskein is a holistic experience; it’s Highland Zen, very much, almost a spiritual exercise in its here-and-now presence and seeming simplicity.

Lauren plays this music with such soul, one only needs to add a word about her technical excellence and there it all is, nothing to add. On some pieces she’s accompanied by pianist James Ross, as in the CC2020 recital, and he brings a nice color and variation to those tunes but this is still very much Lauren’s tour de force – hers, and the Scottish tradition’s whose enduring quality is so alive here, making an impact across time and space.

I have already spent a good many moments listening to Landskein, letting it wrap itself around me, and will spend many more, no doubt. It’s a state of mind and being as much as music and I’m grateful for the chance to enter it whenever I want.

***

Landskein is available in multiple formats on Lauren’s Bandcamp site where your purchase supports the artist directly. Thank you.

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