A long, slow bow stroke… a distant plucked string… the violin slowly beginning to get more intense, building and building and building… I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m instantly hooked. As album openings go, Anna Rheingans’ gloriously mystical and slightly sinister Glattugla is magical. Bold, forthright and uncompromising in a similar manner to the beginnings of Lankum’s latest album.
Follow it with a Rowan Rheingans song, This Forest, a darkly damning, but brilliantly conceived vision of the world and the way we live in it, and you know you are in the presence of an exceptional record.
This is the third duo album by the Rheingans Sisters and while the first two both carried memorable moments, this is by some distance their finest yet. The range and variety of the music they produce is a telling factor in the way it holds the interest – a lovely French-language song Appel, followed by a traditional French dance tune Lo Segoner, so sedate you want to cuddle it, until Anna’s flutey thing kicks in and it jumps out of your arms and leaps around the room in delight. Just one example of their natural instincts for arrangements that keep the music fresh and the juices flowing.
In this respect, banjos play a formidable role in the success of Green Unstopping (heard on this issue’s fRoots 68 compilation), but it’s the striking strength of their fiddle playing that really carries the album. The evocative introductory theme to title track Bright Field is magnificent – indeed if it carried on through the whole album there wouldn’t be any complaints from this corner – until the music fades to a drone to allow the gentle voice of Dafydd Davies-Hughes to recount a spiritual RS Thomas poem urging us to stop and examine the beautiful vignettes enveloped within our mad, rushing world.
Indeed, from the sleeve design to the melancholy imagery of another startlingly well-constructed Rowan Rheingans’ song Edge Of The Field, it’s an album driven by thoughts of nature and the countryside, albeit often used as a metaphor for other things. The sort of album, in fact, where you discover fresh nuances with each re-visit.