Rachel Sermanni’s New Directions

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Rachel Sermanni’s second album, Tied to the Moon, brings fans of the Scottish folk singer some of her trademark haunting melodies, but also a few songs with a new edge. If you liked the mellow lyricism of her first album Under Mountains, you’ll find plenty to please you here; if you’re wondering what else she’s capable of, songs like I’ve Got a Girl and Tractor point in new directions.

A few songs, like Tractor, Run and Wine Sweet Wine, are much raunchier than anything on her first album. They’re a little darker, a little less folky, a little more rock ‘n’ roll. Sermanni explains: “There’s definitely a different thing going on. Sometimes you need some force, some anger, to help you through. I wrote Run when I was first trying to become my own manager. I was taking on many new responsibilities, and I wrote it during that time, when I realized how easy it is to make a mess in terms of business and finance, how difficult it is to keep everyone happy. I was having fun with that but there is certainly the element of anger.”


By comparison, songs like Old Woman’s Lament and Ferryman sound like traditional interpretations of ancient folksongs. Sermanni, however, wrote these songs herself, tapping into a wellspring of folk music that seems to run through her veins. She told me that Old Woman’s Lament “has an old feeling, like Ferryman. It’s interesting because both of those songs came at times when I wasn’t searching for a song as such. With Old Woman’s Lament I was in a nice secluded space and I felt very content; I wasn’t even intending to write anything. Ferryman I wrote years ago on the floor of the studio while my friends were jamming. Both these songs feel different: They came out thoughtlessly, through unconscious processes.” Both Old Woman’s Lament and Ferryman, as well as the hypnotic and melancholic Don’t Fade, have the haunting, repetitive, lullaby-like element that Sermanni is drawn to in traditional music.


Sermanni’s voice is unique yet versatile. She isn’t only interested in traditional Scottish music; she has a few projects on the go, including working with Indian Indian superstars Papon And Bickram Gosh, whom she met a few years ago in India. Despite the musical-cultural differences, all the musicians wrote together, creating music that is soundscapey and ambient (and still to be fully recorded).


Regardless of which directions Sermanni takes in the future, you don’t want to miss her haunting, personal take on folk traditions.


Rachel Sermanni is performing with Jenny Berkel and Tom Terrell July 16 at Quai des Brumes, 4481 St. Denis at 8PM. Tickets $11.53.