Hot off the back of her Celtic Connections show in Glasgow, Scotland’s RACHEL SERMANNI is back in the north of England and has a new EP out. Recorded in New York, but developed originally in her hometown of Carrbridge up in the Highlands, the record is a suitable extension to must-own debut album Under Mountains in 2012, and title track Everything Changes is a striking addition to the Sermanni collection. Things are moving surely and steadily for the busy 22-year old.
Here at the Bury Met Studio, we’re back in the cosy atmosphere we found ourselves last with Rachel during the venue’s Big Whistle Festival. Garden chairs and tables at the ready again, we’re settled in for an evening of quirky humour and spellbinding tunes from one of Britain’s brightest new talents. The Met has become a regular spot for Rachel, an adopted home of sorts, to add to her collection of new homes across North America, in particular Canada where she has met many supporters and collaborators (Nova Scotia’s Mo Kenney being one she is later quick to recommend to us, and who will join her at her London Union Chapel show on Thursday).
As Rachel wanders unobtrusively onto the stage to warm applause, she’s in her pink-white striped slipper socks and wearing a broad smile. What with the worn floor rug and dim lights, this may as well be her living room: “I always lose my shoes – they go walking…”
Tonight she is accompanied by talented pianist Jennifer Austin (“from Orkney – we met four years ago in Glasgow”), who turns out to possess her own sense of humour of the quirk variety. It’s a rare thing to see a duo who sync perfectly in both performance and banter, their jokiness reducing us to spontaneous tittering at points.
We’re presented with a mix of songs, new and older, in each case Rachel impressing with her vocal range and strength. Early on, we’re treated to EP tracks Two Birds and later by Lay-Oh for which she picks up and introduces her mandolin which I think she calls ‘Sue.’ Originally a busking song, she confesses that she’s surprised it ever got recorded – endearingly still staggered by her own achievements, it’s a good sign that she’s doing well to keep her feet on the ground. Tossing her socks off, she gets into the swing, following up with the beautiful Waltz.
After the intermission, she tells us how she recently discovered she needs to wear sunglasses with an electric guitar, giggling with Jennifer about the possibility of attaching a nose-piercing station to future gigs to get the crowd into the mood of ‘rocking out.’ Certainly a song where Rachel experiments with less traditional folk sounds, Black Hole is introduced by “There’s no better person to inspire rebellion than a mother” and the lyrics serve as a reminder of Rachel’s darker side often tinged with a hint of playfulness (“This is a love song for the black hole / These are the last remaining words before we lose our self-control.”).
Rachel ends with the trio Everything Changes, The Fog, and Song For A Fox – each track powerful in its own way – by which point, even the most emotionally resilient of us are tearing up for one reason or another. The encore sees a slick back-to-back of the gorgeous Ever Since the Chocolate and an eye-opening cover of I Want You Back. Looking satisfied with the well-balanced set, Rachel heads off to the merch desk to greet fans, while we make our way out into the rain-washed streets equally satisfied and excited to anticipate a second Sermanni album.