THE SEAS BETWEEN US:
Growing up in Perthshire, Sophie Ramsay was immersed in the traditional songs and music of Scotland. Her latest album, consisting of Scots and Gaelic songs, sees her deliver a range of old favourites with a simplicity and tenderness that reveals the deep love she has for those timeless classics. Out of the 12 tracks on the album, six are by Robert Burns and the shadow of the Bard of Ayrshire looms over The Seas Between Us.
Opening track ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ is a sweetly atmospheric rendition. ‘The Burning of Auchindoun’ is a much darker track, full of menace and foreboding. Burns’ ‘The Lea Rig’ is delivered simply with minimal instrumentation, while traditional track ‘The Dowie Dens of Yarrow’ is rich in melancholia and bittersweet longing. The Seas Between Us finishes as it only could, with a plaintive interpretation of ‘Auld Lang Syne’. A beautiful and heartfelt album, Ramsay’s ethereal voice laces through these songs with a delightful and sensitive tenderness. Atmospheric, elegant and beguiling, hers is an exciting new voice to carry Burns onwards. An ideal companion for these long winter nights.
‘The Seas Between Us’ from Sophie Ramsay – ethereal beauty translated into song
(October 19, 2016)
Search out a dozen old Scots and Gaelic songs that move through facets of tradition, deliver them with gently reflective caressing vocals, involve arrangements and instruments that lift them to somewhere new and the result is ‘The Seas Between Us’ from Sophie Ramsay. And should you care to experience the definition of ethereal beauty translated into song then this is an album you should own. The songs take in Burns’ poetry, oft turned into song, plus those older songs often attributed to him, along with one from Hector Macneil, the rest come from traditional roots. A kind touch, for those who want to understand and the songs, is the translation of lyrics into English in the accompanying booklet but it’s equally rewarding to just listen to the native tongue.
The splendour begins with the deeply affecting ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ progresses through ‘Bothan Airigh Am Braighe Raithneach’ and ‘By Yon Castle Wa’ to ‘The Lea and a delightful piano-led ‘My Love’s In Germanie’. There’s the almost obligatory ‘Song Composed In August’ (aka Now Westlin Winds) and ‘MacPherson’s Rant’ but both subtly and softly delivered to set them apart from the commonly heard delivery. And that’s part of the beauty of ‘The Seas Between Us’ … tradition combined with origination.
Playing on ‘The Seas Between Us’ are Sophie Ramsay (voice, guitar, piano) Matheu Watson (guitars, fiddle, mandolin, harmonium, prepared instruments, synthesiser) Fraser Fifield (low whistle, lowland pipes, kaval) Jim Rattigan (French horn) Ben Cashell (cello) and Findlay Napier (vocals).
THE GLASSY MOUNTAIN:
AMAZON CUSTOMER REVIEW
This is one of those strange musical events that, without sounding in any way weird or alien or inaccessible, somehow just doesn’t sound quite like anything else you’ve ever heard. Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Sophie Ramsay and legendary producer Jim Sutherland, with the help of an elite team of some of Britain’s greatest folk and jazz musicians have constructed a unique musical world which moves from delicate, even whimsical moments to sudden peaks of overwhelming theatre. It’s a perfect accompaniment to Ramsay’s soft but deceptively powerful voice, and the extraordinary, darkly pastoral poetry of her lyrics. A gripping mash up of Scottish folk and contemporary singer-songwriter, with a good dash of French chanson and overtones of Yann Thierson. Ten or fifteen years from now, this album will be considered an eternal classic.
FOLK MUSIC WORTH LISTENING TO
Sophie Ramsay’s ‘Glassy Mountain’ a Timeless, Outstanding Work
Scotland native Sophie Ramsay, one of the most gifted of writers whose work I have heard recently, has released an under-appreciated gem called “The Glassy Mountain.” Conceptually, the album is a series of songs that have their roots in the tragic death of Sophie’s boyfriend. However, the works go beyond the literal sense of loss. They are, collectively, an intimate and introspective look at life, love, and meaning. There is a wistful tone connecting the pieces, amid the delicate instrumentation and creative, poetic language. However, there is much more. This is an album for those who really hear a song. It is an unusual work because unlike the slapdash superficiality that is much of modern music, there are nuances in musicality and language that become more apparent on the fifth or sixth listen. For the listener, there is a cognitive dissonance in the overall sense of loss that is the root of the album and music that send a redemptive message that although lovers are parted, love is never lost. That sense is what makes the listener return to the songs over and over – to resolve that in a way that will be different for every ear that hears Ramsay’s work. The enigmatic beauty of Ramsay’s skillful writing conveyed by her crystalline voice leads the listener to his or her own meaning, truly making the songs a vehicle for real listening and not just the sort of ear candy peddled on the nearest radio station. Lyrically and musically the album is a continual treat of deftly crafted surprises. A French horn appears, adding its sonorous tone and its heavy emotion to the language. Flutes bring the whipping winds of winter to the listener. The production is as outstanding as the writing. Ramsay’s voice is, fittingly, as distinctive as her album, at times delicate and at others resonating with the emotion that she has poured into this work. “The Glassy Mountain” is a timeless contemplation upon life, love and loss. It is, mercifully, not the stuff of glamorous commercial pablum, but it is one of the most distinctive albums I have heard in recent years and deserves a place in the iPod of anyone who takes seriously music, life or love.
CA’ THE YOWES:
Ca’ the Yowes features vocalist Sophie Ramsay and friends, plus a round dozen of what might be called classic folk songs from Scotland and, mostly Burns but also Walter Scott, Lady Nairn and Adam Skirving, the last named’s contribution being Johnny Cope, originally a triumphalist Jacobite satire, but long established as the Reveille of the ethically-Scottish elements of the British Army. This album is full of surprises, not least the waterfall effect in “Caller Herrin”.
Though I confess a certain weakness for encouraging CDs numbered with the artist’s initials followed by 001, no kindness is needed here: this album is definitely a triumph for the Alyth singer and PhD student, ably assisted by Benoit Leseure (violin), Jerome Brajtman (guitar), Adrien Daoud (double bass) and Remi Delangle (clarinet). A particular delight is how she mixes elegant performance and impeccable diction with unaffected voice.
THE GIG SLUT (Macbeth, Hoxton)
“…Once there, I met Sophie and Jim Rattigan, realising, like a fool, I’d seen them at The Dentist–all the more reason to be there. They’re very, very good! They played a set that was brilliant, but too short for my liking. However, I did enjoy it as I did enjoy talking to Sophie after…”
Roger Mairlot (The Gig Slut)
FOR FOLK’S SAKE (The Society of the Golden Slippers, Blacks, Soho, London)
The perfect foil to Bull’s old-world cynicism is Sophie Ramsay, a picture of wide-eyed innocence who tells us she grew up in a remote part of Scotland and may therefore be inappropriately friendly. She plays sweet, quirky, French horn-accompanied folk (courtesy of Jim Rattigan) with even quirkier song titles, ‘Impertinent Pigeons’ being a case in point. Her voice has a childlike quality a la early Joanna Newsom, but the combined result is saved from twee-ness by the fact that there’s substance to the arrangements and lyrics. ‘The Song I Never Wrote You’, about a lover who died, is particularly poignant and very sad, although her version of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ sees us holding hands with the person next to us and grinning inanely.
THREE WEEKS (Edinburgh Festival Fringe)
Step into Sophie Ramsay’s show from the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh’s rainy streets and time begins to stand still. Sophie magically transports the audience from a dark underground room to calming Scottish landscapes with her flawless singing of staggeringly beautiful traditional folk songs. Everything about the show is lovingly constructed in a charmingly simple manner. Sophie sits alone with an acoustic guitar, softly introducing each song with its historical context and composer’s back-story. When she begins to sing, the audience is captivated by her amazing voice and the vivid imagery gushing from the stage. For a chance to escape the world for an hour, with a pure taste of traditional Scotland, this show cannot be faulted.
tw rating: 4/5
THE SCOTSMAN (Edinburgh Festival Fringe)
A GIRL with a ponytail, a stool, a guitar and half an hour of songs may seem like short shrift, but if the girl happens to be Sophie Ramsay and the Scots songs those of Burns, Walter Scott and Lady Nairne, then it is a very special 30 minutes, compelling in its simplicity.
Ramsay’s magic comes from original arrangements, her unassuming approach and fresh, girlish voice that pays no court to pop, rock, folk or classical.
Staying with tradition, she re-mints classics from Caller Herrin’ to Bonnie Dundee, singing as if their poetic ink was not yet dry.
Little titbits of background – like knowing that 40 years to the day Burns parted from his lover, Nancy, she marked the day in her diary hoping they would ‘meet in heaven’ – makes Ae Fond Kiss extra poignant.
Unaffected and unadorned, Ramsay seems to be the reincarnation of one of the lasses Burns serenaded in Green Grow the Rushes, Oh: “The sweetest hours that e’re I spent were spent among the lassies oh”.
This is a pure taste of Scotland: beautiful person, beautiful songs, beautiful show.