So very excited to get stuck into Celtic Connections! Find me here ⬇️

19/1 Brave in Concert, GRCH Main Auditorium

2:00pm and 5:30pm bit.ly/2OHVWBV

27/1 The Bairns o’ Blythman

Tron Theatre, Glasgow 8:00pm bit.ly/2TzaOp4

31/1 Navá and Iona Fyfe

Strathclyde Suite, GRCH 8:00pm bit.ly/2TUm9A9

Other non-celticy January shows:

25/1 Fridays at One: Interwoven

Stevenson Hall, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

1:00pm bit.ly/2M1KiSz

26/1 Aberdeen Arts Centre, Polish Scottish Folk Night

8:30pm bit.ly/2SNtIs7

Iona Fyfe – Dark Turn Of Mind | SMALL RECORD REVIEWS


2018 was a breakthrough for Huntly singer Iona Fyfe. Between releasing an acclaimed debut album, touring the world and deservedly winning prestigious prizes, she has truly etched herself as one of Scotland’s most astounding young folk talents. But there is no rest for the wicked, as she kicks off 2019 in stylish fashion with her new EP – Dark Turn Of Mind.

Instead of being based around prevalent Scottish tunes, she decides to take a stab at a range of songs from the likes of established writers such as Gillian Welch and Gregory Isakov, or time-honoured pieces curated by the Appalachians, and she gives her own takes on them that go in a different direction from the roots she built herself around, yet still carry those same traditional fundamentals.

As is her wont, Iona stuns with a voice that has a broad pitch, gently serenading through the low notes, while being able to sharply hit the resounding high notes, and across the board, she maintains a magnetic quality that has the listener hooked on to every word.

She matches up well with the warm backing harmonies of Aidan, and the group as a whole for that matter are terrific, from Aidan and Graham’s smooth work on the guitar and mandolin respectively, to the splendid skills of Rory on the piano.

Beyond her performance, this record is a great example of Iona’s ability to tackle a variety of styles; Swing And Turn has a spirit and vitality to it, Let Him Sink is milder yet engrossing, The Golden Vanity has a touch of a grand scale, and she goes with a Moira Stewart-inspired a capella approach in Little Musgrave .

For those who are newcomers, this is an optimal introductory sampler to Iona Fyfe, which also serves as an ideal gateway to the more popular, involved material that has established her as the bright talent that she is.

Again, we find it hard to believe she’s only 20 years old. She’s already amassed a line of quality content and achieved so much, and yet, she’s still to hit her prime. Iona is as pure and valid as they get, and if she continues down the path she is on, who knows just how significant a legacy she will leave behind.

 

 

★★★★ Northern Sky Read here.

Fresh on the tails of 2018’s excellent AWAY FROM MY WINDOW, Iona Fyfe returns with a six track release, DARK TURN OF MIND. Iona’s 2018 debut album after a series of Eps established her as one of Scotland’s finest ballad singers and rooted in the tradition while not afraid to experiment and absorb ideas. Expanding on her singing within the Doric Venacular and the Scots language of the North East, DARK TURN OF MIND features material by American writers and songs of Scottish origin that had travelled to America.

Dark Turn Of Mind is a superb song written and recorded by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, originally recorded on Gillian’s 2011, THE HARROW AND THE HARVEST album. Deftly Iona has most definitely not recorded an Americana album. Her reading of the song, swings like Gillian’s but avoids echoing any of her evocative Country drawled inflections. Iona, sounds like herself, her voice wrapping round the words like they are her own. Her pace and Rory Matheson’s tasteful piano suggest a soulful sensitive jazz ballad. Swing And Turn has more sparkle and attack, Iona and Aidan’s vocals bob and dance delightfully over the accompaniment. Aidan’s guitar and Graham Rorie’s mandolin drive the song on, Rory Matheson’s piano part is interesting too, owing more to Chris McGregor and Jazz than the Folk tradition. If I Go, I’m Goin is written and originally performed by Gregory Alan Isakov. Iona confesses, if that’s the word, to hearing it first in the soundtrack to the US David Ducovny TV show Californication. Perhaps she’ll turn to some Red Hot Chilli Peppers next. Personally I think its a strength of the Folk Tradition that no sources are off limits, so no implied apology needed. If I Go, I’m Going is an intimate reading by two perfectly measured vocalists of a wonderful song. Golden Vanity has its origins as an 17th Century ballad collected as far afield as Aberdeenshire, England, Canada and the Appalachians. Essentially a dark tale of reneged desperate promises, Iona Fyfe’s voice soars on this track, generating atmosphere, rising and falling like the sea. Let Him Sink, with its strident vocal, ringing piano and florishes of guitar, in feel and arrangement reminded  me of June Tabor or Joni Mitchell’s Blue. There is space around those huge emotional piano notes and Iona’s singing and everything shines.

Little Musgrave is an a capella version of this classic folk ballad. Iona’s version is an amalgam of Jeanne Robertson’s Little Musgrave and a version from Cecil Sharp’s English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians. Many like me, might be more familiar with the 17th Century song and story as Matty Groves. Versions and variations exist by Frankie Armstrong, Joan Baez, Fairport Convention, Christy Moore and more recently Alela Diane. Iona’s version is rythmic and hypnotic, her wonderful voice carries the tune and words perfectly with some fine flourishes.

DARK TURN OF MIND demonstrates the restless searching of Iona Fyfe. The voice is the same and she gets inside the songs she has collected together here. What is also interesting and a credit to Iona is how different this sounds to 2018’s AWAY FROM MY WINDOW and how she and the players have made the material their own. The beauty of interpreters of song, is that they encourage the seeking out of originals and other versions, DARK TURN OF MIND has led me to Gregory Alan Isakov and reconnected to Gillian Welch, hopefully it will work the other way too for Iona Fyfe.

Marc Higgins
Northern Sky

Read here.

Jeanie Roberston, Jean Ritchie – two great tradition bearers from either side of the Atlantic. If ever there was confirmation of the impact their legacy has had on singers of traditional song, the evidence rings clear and true in a new release from one of our most gifted contemporary artists, Iona Fyfe.

We’re well aware, here at Folk Radio UK, of the clarity and purity of Iona Fyfe’s impressive singing voice, and have been ever since her debut EP, The First Sangs and its 2016 follow-up East. Since then her reputation has grown and her audience expanded. In March 2018 Iona’s debut full-length album, Away From My Window saw her combine traditional and contemporary folk, and celebrate the fluidity of folk music, reaching further beyond the North East Scottish traditions that nurtured her talent from an early age. On January 1st, Iona took a significant step towards enhancing that reputation with the release of an enthralling six-track EP, Dark Turn of Mind; combining that North-East balladry with a selection of Appalachian cousins, and contemporary American folk.

Dark Turn of Mind takes its title from the popular Gillian Welch song that opens the E.P. As Iona’s plaintive vocal joins a dark, solemn piano for a cloudy afternoon at the waterside, there are quiet jazz undertones in the soft guitar and rich vocal harmonies. Although there’s a contrasting glimmer of sunshine from mandolin, it is the warm, enveloping melancholy in the combination of piano and Iona’s vocal that’s so absorbing.

At only 21, Aberdeenshire singer Iona Fyfe has already gained a reputation as one of our finest ballad singers. National recognition came early in her professional career when she was a BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award semi-finalist in 2015. In 2017 she was a finalist in the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year competition, and in the same year she was nominated for Scots Singer of the Year at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards – and went on to win the 2018 award in December. Dark Turn of Mind suggests that as Iona’s talent for song that reaches beyond her native influences becomes more apparent and productive, an upgrade of her trophy cabinet may well be in order.

Significantly, Dark Turn of Mind stays with the same, small group of musicians throughout. This nurtures an intimacy that binds the songs together. Rory Matheson (TRIP) provides the primary accompaniment on piano, Aidan Moodie (Siobhan Miller, Gnoss) brings a multitude of textures on guitar, and those rich vocal harmonies, while Graham Rorie (Gnoss) on mandolin, helps cement those Appalachian tones.

Iona seems to have a talent for choosing contemporary song, and when she takes the quiet murmur of Gregory Alan Isakov‘s beautiful If I Go, I’m Goin’ on a journey through a more expansive, almost spiritual, arrangement, there are periods of soft intensity that reach deep and will compel you to return again and again.

Moving on to the E.P.’s traditional offerings; Iona wrote her own melody for the Ozark Mountain song, Let Him Sink, taken from two versions in the Max Hunter Folk Song Collection. Her detailed sleeve notes are a testament to her fascination with song, and its sources, from a multitude of regions. Equally captivating, though, is the simple piano and vocal introduction that makes the listener feel part of an exclusive audience, as well as the skill and warmth in the piano/mandolin instrumental bridge. As for Iona’s vocal, there’s no sign that stepping away from her beloved Doric tradition has in any way affected her ability to deliver an honest, compelling, and technically perfect performance.

As for those iconic tradition-bearers mentioned earlier – Jean Ritchie was the source for the lively, upbeat Swing and Turn. Iona was inspired to take on this song after seeing it performed by Boston singer/fiddler Laura Cortese at the Orkney Folk Festival, and her own arrangement seems to celebrate the host of links between Scottish and Appalachian traditions. The Golden Vanity has been a highlight of Iona’s live shows for some time. A widely covered and re-interpreted ballad of heroism and betrayal, The Golden Vanity appears in both UK and Appalachian traditions. Popular in the Aberdeenshire tradition, a version (The Merry Golden Tree) was also recorded in 1961 by Jean Ritchie in her first volume of British Traditional Ballads in the Southern Mountains. It’s refreshing to hear this story sung without a hint of salt-air, but rather with a quietly rousing fervour and regency.

Proving that there really is endless variety and scope in the ballad tradition, Iona was inspired by both Jeannie Robertson and Cecil Sharp in her rendition of Little Musgrave. Closing the E.P. with an unaccompanied version of this much-loved ballad. Iona’s voice has more than a hint of the tradition that bore this tale. Although there’s no shortage of theatre, it’s also a memorable as a vocal performance in its own right – pace and pitch perfectly measured at every turn, despite variations in pace and intensity.

It’s worth noting that all those, much-deserved, plaudits mentioned earlier celebrate Iona’s skill as a performer of traditional North-East song. Away From My Window, though, did more than hint at her ability to move beyond her early influences, into song that spans time and distance. Dark Turn of Mind takes her repertoire another step forward, to wider shores and a wider sphere of influence. There’s been no temptation to alter her voice, that’s still as authentically Scottish, and still as clear and expressive, as it ever was. Iona’s approach to song delights in the most charming flourishes, covers an impressive vocal range, and proves her as capable of delivering a burst of power as she is of bringing a tear to the eye. This release will delight existing fans, and bring her music to an even wider audience. If you thought you’d heard the best of Iona Fyfe, think again; there’s every indication that Dark Turn of Mind begins a new, captivating chapter.