I first encountered Siobhan Miller at Cropredy ten years ago. She was in a duo with Jeana Leslie and together they had won the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award that year, and that also gave them a spot at Fairport Convention’s festival. The pair made two brilliant albums and then things went quiet.
A few years later I heard her again, singing with a young Scottish band at Folk by the Oak in Hatfield, UK. They played at the Acorn Stage, a stage for up-and-coming acts, where they got to play short sets between the main acts on the big stage.
Now she has embarked on a solo career, having won the “Scots Singer of the Year” three years in a row. This is her second solo album, the one to establish her as an major act. On the strength of it she has been nominated “Folk Singer of the Year” for the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, and the opening song “Banks of Newfoundland” has won a nomination for “Best Traditional Track.”
I have played “Strata” continuously for more than a week and it still grows on me with every new listening. A good selection of songs, very well sung and nice, varied arrangements; what more could you ask for?
Siobhan Miller has a voice reminding me of Kate Rusby, with a Scottish accent instead of a Yorkshire one. But she is no copycat; she has her own expression, but with the same smooth sound as Ms Rusby.
Miller also has the good sense of surrounding herself with ace musicians. Aaron Jones plays guitar and bouzouki on most tracks, Louis Abbott provides percussion and producer Euan Burton plays bass. There are also apppearances by people like Kris Drever, Ian Carr and Phil Cunningham.
If you have listened to British folk music for decades, like me, many of the songs will be known to you. But when they come from Siobhan Miller’s mouth they sound new and fresh. She lifts “What You Do With What You Have Got” by Si Kahn to new heights. Clearly inspired by Dick Gaughan’s version, she uses a somewhat softer approach which works wonders. The same goes for Ed Pickford’s “Pound A Week Rise,” also sounding inspired by Gaughan’s treatment. Other familiar songs that get new treatments are “False, false,” “Bonny Light Horseman” and “The Ramblin’ Rover.” There is also a brilliant cover of Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings.”
I find it hard to pick a favourite track on the album. There are no fillers here. Each song stands on its own.
Need I say this is the record of the year so far for me and I highly recommend it to everyone with the slightest interest in Scottish music.
Siobhan Miller’s website’s here. The website includes links to music and videos.
(Siobhan Miller Recordings, 2017)