Celtic Connections review: Sarah Hayes, Glasgow

You’re most likely to know Northumberland-born singer and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Hayes as a member of Glasgow indie-folk royalty Admiral Fallow, but she’s also a classically trained flautist, whose first love genre-wise was traditional music.

Multi-instrumentalist Sarah Hayes. Picture: Archie MacFarlane
Multi-instrumentalist Sarah Hayes. Picture: Archie MacFarlane

Celtic Connections New Voices: Sarah Hayes - Mitchell Library, Glasgow

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Ambitiously conceived and beautifully realised, her New Voices composition, Woven, mapped out fertile common ground between these diverse musical worlds, with Hayes – on vocals, piano, flute and whistle – at the helm of a line-up featuring accordionist Mairearad Green, fiddler Fiona MacAskill, bassist James Lindsay, guitarist Ali Hutton and Admiral Fallow bandmate Phil Hague on percussion.

As alluded to in her title, Hayes’ underlying aim was to evoke or musically enact how the cumulative warp and weft of experience creates the fabric of identity, or selfhood, a personal yet universal subject centrally articulated in emblematic excerpts of traditional ballad lyrics, in an array of piquantly beguiling new settings, addressing such themes as love, loss, betrayal, mortality and acceptance. And continuing in eponymous vein, her interweaving of these with the piece’s instrumental elements was nothing short of masterful, encompassing minimalist-influenced iteration, edgy rock/pop elements and freshly-penned tunes in traditional forms like the reel, jig and slow air.

The mercurial, multi-layered rhythmic sophistication that characterises Admiral Fallow’s sound was also vibrantly present.