Review: Huam by Salt House

Salt House – a band of three incredible Scottish musicians from Inverness and the Shetlands:

Lauren MacColl (viola, fiddle, vocals, glockenspiel),
Ewan MacPherson (vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, dulcimer) and Jenny Sturgeon (vocals, harmonium, pump organ, guitars, piano, dulcimer)

This is one of those albums that forces you to press pause on whatever life you have, just relax, reflect and hopefully conclude that your stress levels are now way down! Every single track really is a folk song masterpiece.

Fire Light just draws in the listener, with vocals that have the beautiful classical folk song feel – totally clear, totally haunting.

I listened a few evenings ago and my chair felt more comfy, state of mind calm – even my whisky tasted like the ‘angels share’.  Huam is definitely an album to savour: very rich with such an authentic feel that just flows through the mind.  Strange, really, because I traditionally go for electronica, post-punk and downtempo/trip-hop!  So listening to Huam was very much a change in style for me, but I thought I’d push the envelope a little.

My goodness, it’s their voices – beyond soothing.  Mountain of Gold is such a moving song, beautifully articulate and delivered with crystal clarity, bringing the three artists straight into your sitting-room. The track is definitely up there in quality and character as any of the tracks PJ Harvey wrote on Let England Shake or Hope Six Demolition Project.

The Disquiet is certainly another of my favourites from this album.  Opening up, it took me straight to Mazzy Star’s ‘Into Dust’  in its style.  Such a mesmerising song.  

Throughout, Huam really is incredible production too. Andy Bell has done a sterling job.

Chatting Online

I spoke with Lauren online recently and she was happy to discuss briefly how their latest album took shape ‘We probably spent a year writing then went to a house in Argyllshire to record on location last summer. We tend to get together for 3/4 days at a time to write intensively. Andy Bell produced our last record and we enjoyed that process so much it was a natural choice to use him again.’  Salt House as a collective are very focused!

I asked Lauren how their trio took shape ‘Ewan and myself were playing with a few different singers when we decided to form more of ‘band’ in 2010.  It’s a very small music scene in Scotland but we didn’t actually know Jenny before asking her to join us in 2017.  We’re two albums into this line-up and love the collaborative ethos of it.’

As they’re all born and bred Scots living rurally, I know the answer to the inspiration question anyway really, but it’s good to try tap into that nostalgic legacy of Scotland isn’t it. ‘…In terms of inspiration, we are all lucky enough to live in very beautiful places; rural Inverness-shire and Shetland.  A sense of home and the nature surrounding us is the biggest influence on our music.’

My dad actually lives fifty miles or so across from Inverness, so I’ve seen what Lauren describes so many times, and it truly is something else.  No wonder artists from around there can create breathtaking, stop you in your tracks music.

Still Looking Forward

Finally, we spoke a little about their current tour.  For Salt House as with all artists in recent weeks, touring has come to a standstill with the precautionary self-isolation everyone’s faced with.  In music, bands and promotors are being left out of pocket in a big way.  A few days ago, Lauren, Ewan and Jenny were having to head back up to Inverness-shire from London, literally mid-tour.  Lauren’s understandably brief but resolute on this one ‘Definitely looking forward to getting the music back out on the road when the time is right and this all passes’.

Overall, it’s obvious that Jenny, Ewan and Lauren are all artists who have taken inspiration from their local surroundings.  When those surroundings are all between Inverness-shire and The Shetlands, what you create has a very good chance of being soothing, haunting and uplifting. Yes, Huam delivers a very gentle beauty, certainly worth a listen when you want to wind down, the more so at a time when reminders of how much beauty there is in our world can bring solace and comfort.

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