kris drever Mark the Hard Earth (180g vinyl LP + CD, £19.75)label: Diverse Records
On vinyl for the first time, the acclaimed (second solo) album from Scotland’s finest modern day male folk singer-guitarist, Kris Drever (also of Lau). Mark The Hard Earth was originally released in 2010, the follow up to his classic debut, Black Water. A re-mastered CD edition with improved sound and artwork was issued by Reveal Records in 2014, this 2016 audiophile vinyl edition uses these improved 2014 mixes to create the vinyl master. Mark The Hard Earth is a very impressive contemporary Scottish folk album, with a strong, slow-growing charm. Irish American multi-instrumentalist Tim O’Brien adds the sonic equivalent of subtle marker pen highlights to many songs with his mandolin, banjo, ukulele and harmony vocals. Roy Dodds (drums) Ewen Vernal (bass), Donald Shaw (keyboards) and guitarist Ian Carr play alongside producer and fiddler John McCusker and Kris. Irish singer Heidi Talbot duets with Drever on The Banks of the Nile, as before, the album mixes old and new writing. Boo Hewerdine’s country-gospel flavoured Sweet Honey in the Rock is up to his best writing. The Crown of London, by Drever’s brother Duncan, is a pulsing number with a melody that simply bores into your brain and stays there, along with some great lyrics: “The devil’s made plans for the wealthy man / he’ll never get to me”. The self-penned title-track is a stark, enigmatic waltz that’s probably the best of them all, introducing a wintry theme that resurfaces over a number of his songs. There is a lovely version of The Call and the Answer, which fans of The Dubliners may know. Traditional ballad O’ A’ the Airts has especially fine backing vocals by Talbot, and the closing Freedom Come A’ye (featuring Karine Polwart) matches words by the great Scottish poet Hamish Henderson with the tune of Bloody Fields of Flanders, to strikingly solemn effect. Understated and beautifully played, Drever’s singing is peerless. Mark The Hard Earth is an essential addition to Kris Drever and Lau’s vinyl catalogue.
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