15 March 2020
@Storey’s Field Centre, Cambridge


On a pleasant Sunday evening in Cambridge, with the expected shutdown looming in these unprecedented times, I was lucky enough to spend my last public event for (who knows?) some time with the great Scottish folk trio, Salt House. The venue was the Storey’s Field Centre which seemed to be the perfect fit for these extraordinary talented acoustic musicians, not least because vocalist and harmonium player Jenny Sturgeon’s uncle had helped in designing and building the place! A very talented family indeed!

After we had managed the social distancing between members of the audience and made sure we had all washed our hands while singing the ‘happy birthday song’, we settled into the performance. On stage we had Jenny in the middle, with harmonium and guitar, flanked by Ewan McPherson with his impressive array of guitars on one side, and award-winning Lauren MacColl with her equally as impressive fiddles lined up on the other.

The music to come, we were told, would be mainly from their upcoming new album release Huam, due to be released on 20th March. Kicking off with a couple of older tracks from a previous album called Underdog ‘Turn Ye To Me’ and ‘Lay Your Dark Low’ it immediately became apparent that we were dealing with some real quality here. Jenny’s delicious soft lead vocal, accompanied by Ewan’s crafted guitar skills and Lauren’s delicate fiddle touch, made for a combination that even my dad would have found difficult not to be moved by – and he’s the “men don’t cry” type! As the tracks came, each member took turns with a lead vocal while the others harmonised in the background to perfection. Ballads from their new album such as ‘The Same Land’, ‘If I were Lucky’ and ‘Mountain of Gold’, conjured up visions of Shetland landscapes and ancient times. Commentary from band members in-between songs with tales of orcas, whales, harmonium and caravan song writing, island ferries, tractor rides and northern lights, reinforced this vision to take my imagination up north to a mystical land.

New album Huam

The second half of the show proved to be just as magical and I must have beat the world record for the number of times one person can experience goosepimples over a two-hour period. The music was pure and the lyrics were poetic. I don’t think I can quite put it into words, but there was something about these three musicians and the melodies they produced that could touch my soul – and they were a handsome bunch too! I particularly enjoyed Huam tracks ‘William and Elsie’ – originally a poem which began with fiddle plucking that built up to a beautiful harmonic ballad, flanked sublimely by Lauren’s fiddle skills - and ‘Fire Light’ - a skilfully crafted full bodied acoustic composition with a lovely guitar groove, supported by expert fiddle intersections and bass lines. What is not to like?! Both these songs highlighted the band’s strong emotional connections to poetry in particular with ‘Fire Light’ being a reworking of a Nan Shepard poem. We were also invited to our second sing-a-long of the event with ‘The Sister’s Revenge’ from the Underdog album.

This was an evening not to forget. This was an evening to let this lovely acoustic folk music take us away from what was going on in the background of the real world. Ewan, Jenny and Lauren sure can play and if you are lucky enough to hear them, they will touch you. Once we get through this current madness, make sure you get along to see them somewhere, or at least buy their album to listen to in self-isolation! It will be all that you need.

Words and pic by DAN SLY /

Thanks to Thom at Sonic PR for sorting this out