Debut Album from Heather Macleod, Crossing Tides

Scotland, UK – Scottish singer-songwriter Heather Macleod
launched her debut album, Crossing Tides (LEOD001CD), with a concert at
Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow earlier this year. Produced by Heather
herself, and released on her own Leod Music label, the album includes the double
bass legend Danny Thompson – who also joined Heather for the live show – and
Sugar Blue on harmonica, heading up a hand-picked list of top Scottish based
instrumentalists.As well as her own headline appearances, 2004 saw Heather opening shows for such
leading artists as Cara Dillon, Michael Marra, Eliza Carthy, Tam White, Bert
Jansch and Paddy Casey. Her startlingly individual voice, together with her
songs’ potent poetic language, vivid imagery and filmic atmosphere have drawn
comparisons ranging from Annie Lennox to Goldfrapp.

It’s those original songs that dominate Crossing Tides. Although she sang Gaelic songs as a child, Heather would have hesitated to cite
this rich home heritage as a major influence before Crossing Tides began taking
shape. “I’m usually inspired to write by particular scenarios or incidents in
everyday life, whether they happen to me or other people
,” she says. “But
when I heard the songs as a group, I realised that although there might not be
an overt link with the tradition, the overall feel and flow of the old Gaelic
sea songs is actually a really strong element in the sound, as well as the
blues, jazz and folk influences from the music I’ve been involved in since.
There are many mentions of the sea or the weather, just an underlying sense of
the sea and the tides as a presence around me – even though I’m not living on
the island any more.

The title also intends to reflect the breadth and diversity of the material on
the album – which is another aspect I ended up being quite surprised at

The recording process for Crossing Tides, which took place in the
Scottish Borders and Brighton over a period of 6 months, was both organic and
carefully considered. Once Heather had created a body of songs, the possibility
of working with her long-time hero, Danny Thompson – famed for his seminal work
with Pentangle, Richard Thompson, Nick Drake and John Martyn, among many others
– opened up a host of new possibilities.

A lot of those classic albums that Danny had played on had made a huge
impact on me over the year
s,” Heather explains, “so he’d been in my
musical consciousness for a long time – I found I was hearing his playing when I
was writing a lot of the songs. Then when I was just about to embark on
recording, Martin Carthy – a good friend of Danny’s, who I knew through working
with Eliza’s band – got to hear about this pipe-dream I had of getting Danny to
play on the album. Unbeknownst to me, Martin phoned Danny to sound him out,
Danny said yes – and it was suddenly really happening.

“I knew Danny would be true to the songs,” she continues, “and would also
raise the game for everyone else involved – especially for me! The key thing I
love about his playing is that he’s got a really distinctive and unique ‘voice’
as a direct result of working right across the board, soaking up different
sounds and styles.

I recorded with him and the core of the band first, working mainly in a live
format to capture his response to the songs. By getting that down, I hoped that
the additional musicians would respond in turn to what he’d played, again often
using a ‘first-pass’ approach to retain the spontaneity, but with that initial
backbone through the material to create a sense of cohesion

Apart from Sugar Blue, whom Heather originally met through working with Scottish
bluesman Jim Condie, and who contributes his trademark scorching licks to two
tracks, the rest of the album’s guests have been drawn from her diverse
experiences and acquaintances across the Scottish music scene. They include the
multi-talented acoustic guitarist Steven Polwart; Donald Hay (Mystery Juice,
Unusual Suspects, Nusa, Bachué, Sunhoney) on drums; leading jazzers Paul
Harrison (piano), Stuart Ritchie (drums) and Marcus Britton (cornet/French
horn); Donald MacDougall (Mystery Juice) on electric guitar, and an 4-piece
string ensemble from celebrated alt.classical outfit Mr McFalls Chamber.

Although on the one hand the songs are quite arranged, I think you can
really hear the musicians playing with and off each other in the moment
Heather says. “It is a studio album, but I didn’t want it to sound overworked
and dead, which is often the danger when you’ve got a lot of different layers
going on. The way it’s evolved, though, it feels as if everyone’s all in the
same room together – even though some of the players haven’t actually yet met.

After a final ten days with Al Scott (The Levellers, Derek B, Eliza Carthy) at
Metway Studios in Brighton, he was left to finish mixing and mastering the