Album review: HEAL & HARROW

Heal & Harrow - Rachel Newton & Lauren MacColl

Website [Release date 04.02.22]

Composer, singer and harpist Rachel Newton (The Shee, The Furrow Collective, Spell Songs) and fiddle player Lauren MacColl’s (Salt House, Rant) new project, Heal & Harrow, is a tribute to those persecuted during the Scottish Witch Trials. The 16th and 17th Century Scottish Witch Trials were one of the darkest periods of Scotland’s history, where an estimated 2,500 people were executed, 80% of which were thought to have been women.

Each piece of music is based on specially commissioned works by celebrated author Mairi Kidd – tales inspired by and in remembrance of real women who were persecuted and tried as witches, and characters from the folkloric tales and mythology enshrined in our oral culture.

‘Lilias’ opens the album, based on Lilias Addie the only person accused of witchcraft in Scotland with a known grave. From the first listen you can hear that Newton & MacColl have a string musical bond, each playing to their strengths, to create the moving and thought provoking music & lyrics on this album.

Other highlights include ‘Da Dim’, where MacColl’s fiddle playing takes centre stage, with more ethereal vocals from Newton. An interesting piece of music that mixes the traditional with a modern loop running through it. ‘Cutty Sark’, inspired by ‘Tam O’Shanter’ by Robbie Burns, is a lively instrumental as fiddle and harp combine beautifully.

‘Heal & Harrow’ is one of those albums that shines a light on a dark period of history, wonderfully told and played by Rachel Newton and Lauren MacColl. ***1/2

Review by Jason Ritchie

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