To Have You Near

You might think that an album titled To Have You Near would be full of love songs, but this one takes the broader theme of kinship and community. It starts, appropriately enough, with the place we share with our nearest and dearest: home.

When it’s time to step outside the door, we meet with friends, ruminate on life’s ups and downs, and ponder the unseen threads that tie our communities together. These are Scottish folk songs with a traditional flavour, beautifully sung. There is nothing especially unusual here, and yet each song tugs gently at the heartstrings.

The highlight, for me, is the softly patriotic penultimate track, Scotland Yet. The lyrics are unashamedly in a Scottish dialect that this Englishman cannot fully translate, but the overall message is clear: we are all brothers and sisters, let’s not fight over unimportant things.

No, there’s nothing particularly unusual about the music on this album, and yet the singer’s voice sparkles with the allure of a blue diamond. What else would you expect from someone called Hannah Rarity?

Hannah won BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year award in 2018 and has been appointed joint musical director for the opening concert of Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival of 2022. She has released two albums: Neath the Gloaming Star (2018) and To Have You Near (2022). If you appreciate Scottish folk music, I suggest you keep Hannah’s latest release near the top of your collection.

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