Rachel Newton – To the Awe

Album Review | Shadowside Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson

I guess we’ve come to expect nothing short of ‘class’ from Rachel Newton, the Scottish singer and harpist, whose exquisite musicianship has been integral to such explorative outfits as The Shee and The Furrow Collective as well as her own solo projects over the past few years.  To the Awe, Rachel’s fifth solo album to date, pays tribute to the women who have inspired her, while at the same time focusing on the various life stages of women from a strong female perspective.   Atmospheric throughout, the ten selections include contemporary arrangements of much older songs and poems, from a wealth of inspirational sources.

With a title taken from a 19th century poem by Felicia Hemans, To the Awe delivers on its promise, despite the challenges of lockdown, where a small collective of empathetic musicians gel in less than ideal circumstances.  Rachel Newton handles things with maturity, flair and attention to detail, with assistance from co-producer Mattie Foulds, who helps to make this album sound as fresh and natural as if were in fact a studio album.  Rachel’s bedroom wardrobe is an effective substitute for a studio, from which her vocals are delivered, though perhaps not the harp, which I imagine is too big to squeeze between the coat hangers.  Lauren MacColl’s fiddle weaves in and out, sparring deliciously with Rachel’s harp, especially on the short improvisation “I Will Go”, while Mikey Owers’ sensitive brass adds some perfectly placed embellishment in places, underpinned by Foulds’ technical wizardry.