| First Things First | AILIE ROBERTSON |
| Music composed and arranged for Scottish Harp by Ailie Robertson |
Ailie Robertson – harp
Duncan Lyall - Bass
Paul Jennings - Cajon and Percussion
Ewan Robertson - Guitar
James Ross - Piano and Harmonium
Produced by Mary Ann Kennedy
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Nick Turner at Watercolour Music, Ardgour, Scotland.
Front cover photo by Archie Macfarlane
Design by 16K design
Harps made by Camac Harps
‘First Things First’ - an outstanding mix of passion, power and gentle reserve.
Ailie Robertson is a fine musician of that there is no doubt. She’s also individualist and inventive, and takes her virtuoso harp skills in directions many ignore or are too afraid to try. Her debut solo album reflects that, it also proves the clasarch is not simply a solo instrument, in Ailie’s hands it’s equally at home leading a band. Ailie’s album ‘First Things First’ is a golden opportunity to hear a harp played with flair, precision and consummate skill, plus passionate drive and gentle reserve. There\'s so much depth to her music it could take a long time to discover it all, but keep listening you\'ll love the journey.
Ailie’s list of awards is enough to recognise her skill. There’s many clichés you could use such as ‘old head on young shoulders’, and ‘talent beyond her years’ – but they don’t come close. Simply listen to this album to hear a harp played as never before. You know without doubt you’re listening to inspired genius. Ailie effortlessly blends traditional Scottish and Irish jigs, contemporary tunes, airs, hornpipes, reels, and polkas with her stunning original compositions. On ‘First Things First’ Ailie also enlists the help of Paul Jennings on cajon and percussion, Duncan Lyall on bass, Ewan Robertson on guitar and James Ross piano and harmonium.
Everyone will find some favourites on ‘First Things First’ – these are mine. The album opens with ‘The Exploding Bow’ - three gentle jigs, the third being Ailie’s ‘Swerving for Bunnies’, which in her words ‘reflects rabbit avoidance’ – love it. ‘The Favourite Dram’ usually rattles along but Ailie slows it down and creates a tranquil melody woven around harp and piano. ‘Spirits’ is an outstanding air and once more Ailie proves (were it needed) how delicately her fingers can touch the harp. The tone alters dramatically with ‘The Humours of Scariff/ Good Spirits’ the second being Ailie’s own composition to (in her words) celebrate the joys of whisky drinking. Amen to that. Another of her compositions is Sands of Hosta’ (my favourite on the album) it’s just exquisite that’s all you need to say. This is quite simply music for the soul.
Ailie’s standing as an accomplished exponent of the clasarch precedes her, this album will only strengthen that reputation. If the day wraps its problems too tightly round your shoulders then listen to ‘First Things First’ and let the unwind begin.
Irish Times Review
AILIE ROBERTSON First Things First Lorimer Records
By Siobhan Long
Shattering preconceptions about the fragility of her chosen instrument, Scottish debutante harpist Ailie Robertson basks in a heady excavation of the driving rhythms that lie dormant between the strings. Forget misty images of lovelorn maidens at lattice windows. Instead, step into a world where Robertson\'s harp jousts (alongside the energising confidence of fellow Scots harpist Catriona McKay) with percussion, bass, guitar and piano. Her opening salvo, The Exploding Bow, sets the tone for a funky excursion around a trio of contemporary jigs, the final one written by Robertson herself. Another of her original compositions, Good Spirits, is paired cannily with a reel, The Humours of Scariff. The tunes revel in the unpredictability of newfound company. Robertson\'s genius is in straddling the Irish and Scottish traditions with a fresh-faced and utterly bearable lightness of being. www.ailierobertson.com
Download tracks: Spirits, The Exploding Bow
22 Sep 2008
Good heavens, Ailie Robertson of Scotland can play the harp! So, there are lots and lots of harp players, right? Correct. But, now, Ailie Roberts becomes the third in a full trio of the best of the best in the music. There are the unparalleled Michelle Mulcahy and Maire ni Cathasaig---and now comes Ailie with her debut album, First Things First. How many musicians do you know who have graduated with a Master\'s from the Limerick University Irish music program? Well, there ARE several, aren\'t there? But, how many also have an undergrad degree in Genetics from Oxford? I suspect we have just narrowed the field noticeably. In short, Ailie has chosen to follow her heart and hands into the music, and all of that is on display with this album. Don\'t make the mistake of thinking all harpists sound the same. Wrong. Wrong. She is a superior musician, understands the tradition, has her own style and is at home in trad as in the jazz idiom. The amount of major awards she has won for her harp playing would fill this column. The awards don\'t tell the story. Her music does, and the album is on Lorimer Records. Google them, or Ailie. Get this album. We are playing it constantly on the public radio show. This is wonderful. A major, new star.
23 Aug 2008
Ailie Robertson - First Things First (Lorimer)
Young Scottish harpist Ailie\'s pedigree is already impressive: five times National Mod Gold Medallist, erstwhile member of the Scottish Harp Orchestra, Na Clarasairean, and currently member of international six-piece band The Outside Track (who have been delighting UK festival audiences over the past year, and whose CD I reviewed in Stirrings 133). Inevitably, Ailie\'s debut solo CD is a more intimate affair, with an at times quite laid-back atmosphere that\'s both soothing and invigorating. Ailie\'s instrument is the clarsach (the small harp whose recent resurgence has been led by the likes of Corrina Hewat and Patsy Seddon), and its unique and definitive sound-world is captured here in a demonstration-class recording that manages to convey all the relevant nuances and timbres in due perspective without sounding at all clinical or sterile. Each of the eleven tracks brings its own special delights, starting with the almost jazzy insouciance of the opening set of jigs, where the rippling joy of the harp line offsets James Ross\'s classy piano embellishments and the crisp, busy percussion backing (Paul Jennings on cajon). The playing is sprightly, yet with an enviably relaxed precision of attack that holds the listener\'s attention throughout - and this quality applies equally to the slower-paced items on the disc, notably the gorgeous slow air Spirits (co-written by Angus Lyon and his father), which forms its centrepiece. The Irish and Scottish hornpipes that are wedded together on the gently swinging Marry Me Now set are a model of delicate playing, with Ailie\'s deft syncopations and skilfully bent “blue notes” enticingly complemented by guitar (Ewan Robertson) and bass (Duncan Lyall); these same two musicians bring an exhilarating sense of drive to the tricky time-signatures of Ailie\'s own tune Good Spirits in the ensuing set. Ailie\'s slower-than-customary treatment of The Favourite Dram brings out its inherent beauty in a way I\'ve not heard on any other recording of the tune, while her own composition Sands Of Hosta (written after a long beach walk on North Uist) is both genuinely tranquil and introspectively evocative. And you can hear Ailie taking the harp technique into hitherto-uncharted areas of innovation and expertise on tracks such as the infectious Angus Jigs set: the closer you listen, the more detail there is to revel in. First Things First is a thoroughly charming disc, replete with both a consummate finger-dancing intelligence and an irrepressible joie-de-vivre.
David Kidman August 2008