Listening to Ailie Robertson play the harp is as close as I expect to come to hearing ‘heavenly music’. Her album ‘Little Lights’ is precisely what we’ve come to expect from a lady whose awe-inspiring touch on the Celtic harp or clàrsach, borders on the sublime. This album is an exquisite collection of Scottish, Irish, Quebecois and original tunes, mixing tradition and innovation to quite simply sweep through your soul with the touch of an enlivening balm that makes the worst of days a little better.
Virtuoso is an oft misapplied word, not in this case. Choose composer or musician, innovator or improviser, each is true. The terms matter not, what does matter is this lady’s all-consuming talent and an album of genuine presence. From the opening notes of the French waltz, ‘La Valse à Huit Ans’ through the couplet of jigs ‘The Kilmovee/ Sailing Down Fulton Street’ to the gorgeous slow air, ‘The Wild Geese’ this will hold you enthralled.
The richness of this album flows and returns in waves, there’s the joyous delight in ‘Old Maids of Galway/ Downey’s/ Brian Kelly’s’, the sparkling vivacity of ‘Around the Fairy Fort/ The Shetland Fiddler’, and he quintessential delight of ‘The Fairy Queen’. There’s never a single moment when you’re not completely absorbed.
Ailie states: “…my intention was to make an album that was very much solo harp, but to use the harp in as creative way possible.” Listening to ‘Little Lights’ I’d say that’s exactly what she’s achieved. The music ranges from basic plucked string tones, to percussive sounds and manipulating the harp’s natural resonance. Ailie builds up the percussive beats from striking the harp with hands, brushes and beaters – and the result is something to be heard time and time again. The level of inventiveness and accomplishment is awe inspiring.
‘Little Lights’ features Ailie Robertson (harp) Natalie has (cello) and Tim Edey (guitar, accordion). Look here for more about Ailie Robertson and ‘Little Lights’: www.ailierobertson.com
Reviewer: Tim Carroll