Album Review | Self Release | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5
Dowally is the meeting point of a trio musicians from very different worlds. Daniel Abrahams is an Edinburgh jazz guitarist, Phill Alexander a performer of Klezmer music and Rachel Walker plays traditional Scottish folk fiddle. The band are named after a signpost on the A9 for the tiny hamlet of Dowally. Luckily they weren’t on the A368 in Devon near Crap stone. Perhaps they’d been there and thought better of it. The incident is eluded to on the striking landscape cover of the album. Rafaela Taylor’s rich artwork is part fantastical rural landscape part Alfred Wallis naive port and evokes the high energy interest of Dowally’s music perfectly. The exact opposite of the phonetically similar Deolali, a Hill Station in India where British Soldiers described themselves as Doolally, losing their minds in boredom as they waited to be shipped home to the UK. Very much the mirror of the spirit of Dowally and their music. Ultimately a name is name, except that of course it grounds the band and their music in the beautiful, rugged Scottish landscape and establishes a definite connection, while taking you on a varied and exciting journey. “Sunday Brunch”, with more beauty than the title suggests, sets the scene. Accordion swirls like Scottish weather, while guitar and fiddle melodies run over the top as striking as shafts of sunlight or birdsong. Demonstrating that Folk is an idiom, “Fluorescent Banshee” marries “Fluorescent Adolescent” by that Sheffield unaccompanied trad vocal group Arctic Monkeys with Scottish fiddle tune Banshee. Dowally punch through the track brilliantly, breathing some Scots bravado into the lyric and the fiddle tune sounds perfect. “Up the River” is another perfect guitar melody, partnered with a wonderful whistle part to make a jazzy stuttering rhythm. “Castellation” and “Be Mine or One” are atmospheric instrumentals, swirling accordion, striking fiddle and jazzy guitar. “And I Love Her” is a slowed down brooding version of The Beatles ballad. Wonderful vocals and a very European accordion raise the emotional intensity of the song giving it a new depth. St Vincent’s throws in some sensitive jazz and classical piano over a fiddle dance tune. This is music that goes where it needs to, finding its own way and confounding expectations. “Veruda” with some of the nimble atmospherics of June Tabor and Martin Simpson’s Aqaba, is a flamenco tinged tune with the Mediterranean feel of The Goran Project or Radio Tarifa. Somewhere features an array of guests in the mix, Dominic Baikie adds his soulful voice to the two vocal tracks and Ciaran Ryan of Dallahan adds his tenor banjo to the album closer “Port Inn Hornpipe”. Quickly a nimbly paced tune morphs into a brawl of a piece, a kind of traditional music football terrace chant and finally a piece of Oompah music from the bar scene in Lionel Bart’s Oliver musical. You are kept guessing and on the edge of your seat till the end. Double Bassist Danny Thompson’s much under-appreciated 1980s trio that straddled Folk, Jazz and International musics was titled Whatever, that being Danny’s response to bewildered listeners question is it Jazz of Folk. Likewise Dowally may be rooted firmly in Scotland, but Somewhere sprawls across the musical map, taking a Magical Mystery Tour or an atmospheric slow boat of a long journey, not always the expected route, never the obvious route but always scenic, interesting and enjoyable.