Parallel Latitudes Album Reviews

 

Folkwords:

Now there’s a chance to absorb Cheyenne Brown’s consummate skill on the harp with her new album ‘Parallel Latitudes’ – also recognised in her partnership with Seylan Baxter, this is Cheyenne showcasing the harp in a multitude of different guises. Listen and engage with this album and you’ll find stunning self-penned tunes alongside contemporary and re-worked ‘traditionals’ – brought alive by Cheyenne’s spirited and sensitive touch – unwind and allow this enchanting music to slowly draw you into its magical expression.

The tunes on ‘Parallel Latitudes’ range from spontaneous, energetic invitations of delight to languid, dreamy musical embraces – each in turn making you want to leap for joy or fall deep into their hidden meaning. The tradition is well-served with the charms of ‘Ruairi Dubh’ and ‘Mrs MacPherson/The Earl of Hyndford’ and the enigmatic ‘Mo Charaid’. Through the gentle exuberance of ‘Strathspey and Reels’ to the more contemporary combination of Arthur Darley and Mike McGoldrick in ‘Arthur and Isobel’s Trip to Brittany’ – these are tunes to savour.

The superb pairing of Scottish and Appalachian tunes wrapped deftly around a gorgeous self penned tune create the ‘Cold Frosty Morning’ set. Cheyenne’s skills as a composer are more than evident in the gentle wistful touch of ‘Seals at Rhu/Ali’s Tune’ and the outstanding improvisational title track ‘Parallel Latitudes’ – a wandering elusive journey through Cheyenne’s symbiotic association with the harp and all it offers under an instinctive touch.

Working with slow airs, jaunty jigs and reels, contemporary or traditional tunes, Cheyenne displays that envied empathy with both instrument and music that few achieve. Joining Cheyenne are Seylan Baxter (cello) Jon Bews (fiddle) Dave Boyd (PANArt Hang, frame drums, bodhran, percussion Dave Currie (dobro, guitar) Hardeep Deerhe (table) and Anna Massie (banjo). See original here

 

Living Tradition (Kevin Ward):

Alaskan born harpist Cheyenne Brown graduated from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in 2006, and then undertook a year of ethnological research into her chosen instrument’s history in Scotland. This evident musicological bent has certainly not constrained her approach.

As perhaps befits a player used to performing across Europe and the United States in various combos, the music here is eclectic and contemporary. It certainly draws heavily on Scottish traditions but is coloured with other Celtic and European textures – Sileas, Myhrdin, and Tristan le Govic are indicative of those that came to mind when listening to it. In short, anyone interested in creative and atmospheric modern use of the harp will find much to please.

Her Dusty Strings harp has a very clear, metallic, treble and middle-rich ringing sound to which harmonics, note bending and other deft techniques are applied. Rhythmically rich, there are ample dynamics, including some improvisational derring-do, but the energetic elements are balanced aplenty with elegance and sensitivity.

The recording presents a series of tune sets and composed pieces drawing on traditional – such as the Athole and Simon Fraser collections – and contemporary sources (Michael McGoldrick’s Trip to Brittany for example), including some of her own well crafted pieces.

The soundscape of the arrangements are admirably supported in the lower register and rhythmically by clever interplay with Seylan Baxter on cello (with whom Cheyenne works and tours in duo format) and the percussive contributions of Dave Boyd on frame drum, bodhran et al. There is also some additional instrumentation on some tracks, namely fiddle (John Bews), dobro and guitar (Dave Currie), tabla (Hardeep Deerhe) and banjo (Anna Massie).

 

Irish Music Magazine (John Brophy):

Cheyenne comes from Alaska, but has spent the last ten years in Scotland, hence the title. There is also a fine title track, a half improvisation, which features harmonics and bent blue notes, in other words, very competent technique.
This is well–judged and intelligent musical exploration. We’ve known about harp and fiddle, and harp and cello is a very effective combo. But the special bits for me were hearing harp in combination with dobro and banjo, and there are also good effects on the tabla. So it’s musically courageous, and it works. I expect to hear others repeating the formulas: you know how it is with imitation and flattery.
The tunes too are a good blend of modern and original with others from the Fraser Collection (was he the most ripped off man in history?) and the Atholl collection. Which is to say Cheyenne has paid her dues and now is a mainstream mover.

 

Folk Harp Journal (Brook Boddie):

My first impression as I listened to this album was that it’s not one of those pretty harp CD’s that you play in repeat mode while having a nice, quite dinner.  Cheyenne’s expertise in traditional Scottish music is immediately evident in the album’s first selection, “Funny Jigs,” in which she combines Baxter and tabla player Hardeep Deerhe in a rhythmic and fun group of jigs that makes you wish you were in a Scottish coffee house on a cold winter’s even with a group of close friends listening to this music live.  The next track, “Cold Frosty Morning,” takes you from the relaxing and sublime setting of this traditional tune to an original piece with echoes of jazz mixed in with exquisite harp-playing skills, such as pitch bending.  Cheyenne’s expert improvisational ability is most evident, however, in the album’s title track.  She makes full use of her beautiful Dusty Strings harp and even stretches its capabilities in ways that sound unpredictable and cutting edge to my classically trained ears.  This is definitely not your average harp CD.

My favorite track is entitled “Seals at Rhu/Ali’s Tune,” both of which are original compositions.  In it, Cheyenne’s emotive playing and passion for her unique skill and art draw the listener in with solo harp at the beginning which is later paired with fiddle and cello to create a flowing and masterful partnership between the three instruments that seem to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle which reveals a lush, green Scottish hillside upon completion.  Watch out for the next track, however.  If you’ve never heard harp and banjo together, you are in for a treat.

The liner notes provide great information about the sources and inspiration for the pieces, and the CD cover artwork is beautiful.  She includes this phrases in her liner notes:  “…all connected by a stream of infinite Earth-circling lines of parallel latitudes.”  Indeed, this entire album is a series of connected pieces that make you lean just a little bit forward as you anticipate the unexpected styles, instrumentations, and arrangements of Brown and friends.  If you have never been exposed to Scottish harp music, this album would be a great place to start!

 

Harp Column (Alison Young):

From Brown’s infectious smile to her quirky stores and absolutely spot-on playing, she is one of my new favorites to follow and watch as her career unfolds…  There is a freedom and looseness to Brown’s playing that gives not only gives this free improvisation (title track), but the entire disc, such elegance and spirit… It’s beautifully played, well-chosen repertoire that’s balanced throughout with each entrance of the simpatico ensemble like a supporting chorus of beloved friends.  If you love roots music, this disc is for you.

 

Folking.com (Janet M. Roe):

Alaskan harpist Cheyenne Brown’s beautifully packaged new album “Parallel Latitudes” is a project which aims to highlight connections between music of her homeland, her adopted home of Scotland and sources further a field.

Jigs, reels and tunes are presented with an eclectic mix of accompanying instruments ranging from dobra to banjo, tabla to bodhran. Traditional airs are given inventive settings and juxtaposed against atmospheric melodies with Cheyenne’s own compositions “Seals at Rhu” and “Ruth’s Recovery” showing that she is a musical force to be reckoned with as well as a harpist of great dexterity.

“Parallel Latitudes” is an accomplished enterprise which showcases not only a highly talented soloist and her band but also the wide ranging capabilities of the traditional harp particularly on the improvisatory title track.

Cheyenne’s harp is supported by Seylan Baxter on cello, Jon Bews on fiddle, Dave Currie on dobro, Dave Boyd on percussion, Jon Bews on fiddle, Hardeep Deerhe on tabla and Anna Massie on banjo. “Parallel Latitudes” has been nominated for the Roots Album of the Year at the Scottish Music Awards.

 

FolkWorld:

…beguiling harp playing, subtle but full of spirits.

 

Danish Irish Society:

From the first bar of the first tune you know this is not an ”ordinary” harp CD. What are tablas doing on a Scottish harp album? Well, they work!! Harpist Cheyenne Brown’s CD Parallel Latitudes has many of these “oddities” and this makes it a very pleasant CD to listen to. Admittedly, a whole CD of harp music can be tough going, but with the addition of other interesting instruments in the hands of very capable musicians, I really enjoy listening to this CD.

Cheyenne Brown is born in Alaska, but has lived and studied harp in Scotland for the last nine years. She is a very talented harpist and has an MSc. in Scottish Ethnology. Her researching the harp would lead you to believe she would make a very traditional CD of harp music, but this is not the case. Although there are many trad tunes on the CD, most are contemporary and several are her own compositions.

On the tune Parallel Latitudes, which is written by herself, she plays the most beautiful unaccompanied harp. She calls it an improvisation piece with a turn of the trad reel John O’Groat’s in the middle – what great musicianship. The predominant other instrument on the CD is the cello (Seylan Baxter) and the two instruments go very well together.

Just when you think you have got the gist of the CD along comes track 7 with the addition of a banjo! If somebody had told me that harp and banjo would go well together I wouldn’t have believed them, but – shame on me – this is brilliant.

Tablas are not the only percussion instruments on the CD. Dave Boyd masters a whole array of percussion instruments which he plays very subtly throughout the CD. A fiddle (John Bews) has crept in on a couple of tracks and I wouldn’t have minded a bit more of that. That, however, is a small fly in the ointment on a delightful CD. -Mich Danish Irish Society Review

 

Fatea:

As you might deduce from the title, “Parallel Latitudes” pays tribute to the spread of Celtic music around the top of the world and takes in Cheyenne Brown’s journey the opposite way as she migrated from Alaska to Scotland. Unusually, Cheyenne uses the harp as te primary method of getting that story across. It works remarkably well, there’s not enough attention given to the harp as four and six stringed instruments have, in recent years, generally been at the forefront. It gives the album a different sound that sets it apart from it’s peers.

 

Rambles:

This album is a wonderful collection of varied pieces, all of which featured fantastic instrumentals that blend in perfect harmony. While Ms. Brown’s harp is omnipresent, is never overwhelms the other performers, and we are treated to an excellent definition of what a group should be: different musicians all on the same page in showcasing their skills, resulting in a chance for the listener to simply sit back and enjoy proof that music is truly a form of art.

 

Reviews of North Atlantic Trio:

ThreeWeeks:

I would be a lyre, as well as the maker of terrible puns about stringed instruments, if I said that I did not enjoy this soothing folk music concert. The phenomenally dextrous Cheyenne Brown, an exquisite harpist, was accompanied by Dave Boyd, a talented percussionist, and Dave Currie, an experienced player of the dobro, which is an acoustic guitar with a built-in metal resonator. The trio produced calming and mellifluous melodies that were the perfect soundtrack to a quiet Sunday afternoon’s relaxation, and before the performance turned unbearably soporific, they cleverly interspersed their set with a selection of jaunty, faster tempo jigs. This was a recital that not only cleared my head but also moved my feet – a marvellous combination.

 

Reviews of Cheyenne Brown and Seylan Baxter:

 

“Delightful and classy debut from two highly talented musicians”

-Scots Magazine

“Innovative soundscapes created by this incredibly talented duo” -Living Tradition

“Beautiful, balanced, well-crafted texture…  with unexpected bursts of sparkling sunshine” –Ceol Beo

“Lively and innovative arrangements…  The combination of harp and cello proved a rich, beautiful one…”

-Fringe Review