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She’s a straight-up storyteller with a voice to blow all others clean out of the water…19-year-old Scottish singer-songwriter Rachel Sermanni packs an almighty punch with her earthy folk melodies and dextrous fingerpicking.

Her hometown of Carrbridge ­ with its rugged mountain backdrop in the heart of the Highland skiing fields ­ is rife with creative potential and Rachel’s traditional folk lineage continues to pervade her work. But since upping sticks to Glasgow, her songs have also been shaped by new beginnings. “Jazz, folk, indie – all the spheres seem to meld together and there are no boundaries, which creates an incredibly healthy scene,” she says.

Rachel is currently putting the “glue work” to her debut self-released ‘Black Currents’ EP, out January 30th. Produced by Communion marvel Ian Grimble, it showcases her unique talent through four beautiful tracks which at once conjure a kaleidoscopic reverie of sights and sounds.

There’s ‘Breathe Easy’ – a song built on a brave, a cappella backbone and fleshed out with a forthright strings and keys section – the dynamic ‘Black Current’ which rises and falls with an intoxicating swoon – and ‘Song To a Fox’ – a wintry hymn sculpted from haunting, spacious cries. That’s not forgetting lead track ‘The Fog’, with its larger-than-life chorus.

Rachel’s razor-sharp wit and natural affinity with any audience somehow belie her young age and have led to support slots with the likes of Elvis Costello, Ron Sexsmith and Michael Kiwanuka.

At Christmas she will travel to India for an intensive writing and recording session hosted by guru Papon – followed by shows in some of India’s major cities – and then early 2012 sees the London debut for Rachel’s full band with a date at Union Chapel on January 23rd.

THERE’S been a considerable buzz building around 19-year-old Highland singer-songwriter Rachel Sermanni, and to judge by this entrancing sequence of new and pre-written material, commissioned by Celtic Connections for the second of this year’s New Voices concerts, there’s plenty to come. Sermanni has been particularly embraced by the hipsterish end of the contemporary folk spectrum, becoming something of a protge for Mumford & Sons and their London-based Communion collective. Any resulting preconceptions of wispy feyness and wobbly intonation were immediately dispelled by her ardent, bell-like singing and strikingly mature, literate songcraft.

There’s a certain wide-eyed kookiness, which feeds directly into her musical charms, but no preciousness, and while she cites such classic forebears as Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake as core inspirations, she has a voice that’s patently and compellingly her own. There were echoes of Mindy Smith, Suzanne Vega, the McGarrigles and Martha Wainwright in there, too, plus hints of jazz, classical, chanson, blues and Brel-esque cabaret. Self-accompanied on guitar and occasional piano, Sermanni was flanked by her regular line-up of fiddles, bass and drums, also incorporating up to three backing vocalists. Beautifully crafted arrangements subtly intensified the songs’ vividness and variety, while a potently evocative instrumental piece, The Big Grey Man of Ben MacDhui, featured eerie wordless harmonies from the all-female Hidden Lane Choir.

Exploring her chosen theme of “tramping”, a vintage term for rambling or hillwalking, literally and figuratively, Sermanni’s deceptively artless musical roamings didn’t put a foot wrong. – The Scotsman *****


€12 available online from WAV Tickets [Lo-Call 1890 200 078] (50c per ticket service charge applies on phone or creditcard bookings)



Whelan’s Indie Club w/ Late Bar from 10:30pm or check out the bands playing The Midnight Hour in the upstairs venue (FREE ENTRY, 12am).