Woven is the début album from Sarah Hayes - the Northumberland-raised, Glasgow-based folk singer, musician and composer better known as a multi-instrumentalist with the mighty Admiral Fallow.
Woven was first performed at Celtic Connections in 2014, where it was commissioned as part of the festival’s visionary New Voices series – designed to produce new work from artists on the Scottish traditional music scene.
Thematically, Woven explores how the experiences, relationships and events in our lives shape and form the fabric of what we are. Informed in part by the profound effects her grandmother’s dementia had on the family Sarah then took the analogy further, using the idea of wear and tear, fraying and unravelling to examine how our sense of self, place and purpose can become eroded; and in turn our identity as defined by the relationship we have to others.
Each song on Woven reflects one of several themes that are at once personal and universal: love, loss, contentment, hardship, friendship, infidelity, perseverance, ageing and acceptance. Many of the songs are purposefully familiar, such as the traditional Deep In Love and Fall Of The Leaf, chosen because their topics have endured and connected for hundreds of years. All except the stark Four Loom Weaver and Sair Fyel’d Hinny (found in the Northumbrian Minstrelsy), have been wrapped in fresh melodies by Sarah.
The album was conceived as a cohesive whole, designed to be listened to in its entirety – as it was in its first performance. Musically, Woven has three main elements: traditional songs in new settings, new tunes in traditional forms and through-composed instrumental passages. Motifs recur, a rhythmic cell crops up in different guises, and melodies and chord progressions reappear in altered forms throughout.
Rebuilding the work in the studio, Sarah crafted new layers, honed the arrangements and manipulated sounds. The result is a varied, inventive and emotionally stirring work that brings to mind the sophisticated light and shade of Lau, the skewed time signatures of Thom Yorke and the direct connection to these mysterious and sad old songs of Sam Amidon or Alasdair Roberts.
Accompanying Sarah’s voice, flute, piano and whistles are Fiona MacAskill on fiddle, Mairearad Green on accordion, Ali Hutton on guitar, James Lindsay on double bass and Phil Hague on drums. The album was recorded by Angus Lyon and mixed by Iain Hutchison.
“There’s a weave of my own musical influences and experience running through the heart of this album. Having been so close to the music for the past couple of years I’ve found it’s taken on new life and depth of meaning that will continue to evolve.”
released November 20, 2015
Music by Sarah Hayes (Nettwerk One Publishing) except song melodies in tracks 4 and 8 (traditional)
All words traditional except track 7 (Mary Brooksbank) and track 10 (Graeme Miles)
Additional arrangement and accompaniment by the Woven band
Cover image from 'Stitched Drawings' by Georgie Meadows
Photography by Gemma Dagger
Design by Fourtwentyseven