Taking a break from their work in popular folk band Shee, Laura-Beth Salter and Rachel Newton present an hour-long set comprised of found songs, previous material and their new solo work for a double bill show at the Acoustic Music Centre.
Dividing up the lead duties between themselves, Salter and Newton each played music from their respective ongoing solo projects, as well as duetting on both Shee tracks and other songs.
The contrast between the two artists makes for an interesting experience. Whilst Salter grounds her songwriting around her impressive skills on the mandolin and takes inspiration from the left field end of modern folk music, Newton takes the opposite position, singing songs fully in Gaelic or simply playing instrumental harp pieces. When the two come together, it makes for some wonderful music.
Particular highlights of the act included Newton’s a cappella tracks sung entirely in Scots Gaelic, the mandolin and fiddle duet (a piece written for a wedding dance, incidentally), and Salter’s intimate and sparing unaccompanied songs.
Salter’s solo work – with its pared-back, stripped down sound – is similar to other contemporary Edinburgh antifolk artists like Kaiho or Reverieme and her style will appeal to those familiar with even the lightweights of that genre. Newton’s work, however beautiful, is certainly aimed at the specialist listener, and tonight’s audience was accordingly select.
Whilst they played to a reverent and awed crowd, it is hard to see how either artist could take on a larger venue: their uniqueness being a double-edged sword, it is clear that there are limits to how far their work can lead.