Amy Henderson – Soul for a Compass

Album Review | Self Release | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 3/5

Amy is a graduate of the prestigious National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music at Plockton High School and the Folk and Traditional Music Degree at the University of Newcastle. The University course led to an interest in community arts alongside her live performing.  Coming through strongly on this debut album are her interests to Cajun and Zydeco alongside her rooting in and commitment to Scottish Traditional Music.  “Why Walk When You Can Fly” opens with a spry tinkling refrain on the accordion and piano that strongly suggests the Penguin Café Orchestra’s lightness of touch.  Amy Henderson’s vocal on this upbeat version of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s motivational song skips along.  It’s a great album opener, setting out as it does Amy’s intention to aim high and not accept second best.  “Lady Mary Ramsay” and “Kirsty and Kevin” set Amy’s pulsing accordion, which carries the tune, against piano and guitar.  Her playing has light and shade and shifts of mood and place that hold your interest.  “Kirsty and Kevin”, like the later “Linda And Kenny’s Waltz” is one of those atmospheric slow tunes, where space and long notes draw you in rather than breakneck paced whirling dance music.  The relationship between the sparse percussion, those big double bass notes and the accordion is simply wonderful.  “Easy And Free” and “Bonnie Ship The Diamond” showcase Amy’s beautifully pure voice.  The first track is just about the singing, with the voice filling the room on the verses.  The second is a faster swirling song and Henderson’s rich singing is one of the colours carrying the tune and painting glorious pictures.  “Make Up Your Mind” is a spit and sawdust breath of air a heaving Country Cajun number with a real twang to Henderson’s singing and the playing, an interesting contrast to the rest of the album.  The final pair of tunes contrast Amy’s skills as a performer, Nina is a wonderful rolling accordion tune with all those rich orchestral noises that the instrument can conjure in the hands of a skilled player.  “Golden Years” is a stately slow almost sombre piece, full of poise, atmosphere and power.  This is an assured, confident and rewarding debut contrasting bursts of speed swirl and occasional Cajun swagger with a stately beauty and grace.