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Rachel Sermanni’s new Scotland 

Contemporary ballads with roots in traditional Scottish folk make their way across the Atlantic for Natal Day

click to enlarge MATTHIAS HOMBAUER
  • Matthias Hombauer

"It's me, a lady, with a guitar, singing," says Carrbridge, Scotland's Rachel Sermanni. The 21-year-old makes her first trip to Nova Scotia for the Natal Day concert at Alderney Landing on Saturday. She joins Joel Plaskett Emergency, Mo Kenney, Slowcoaster, The Will Be Gones and Young River.

"I can't wait to visit Nova Scotia to see if I can see some parallels between my place and yours," she says, currently touring western Canada for her third time this year. "Music has always been strong in Scotland; I suspect your love of it has roots in that, too." Her background in traditional Scottish folk informs her darkly whimsical contemporary ballads, which she describes as "quite simple."

"It's not traditional, that's for sure," Sermanni says, even though traditional Scots music provides a wonderful foundation for her. "It's without pomp. It's all about sharing and enjoying and having a sense of humility in the face of other musicians. It's probably my greatest learning, as well as my understanding of melody and harmony." A fan of Plaskett, Sermanni also celebrates humour and joy.

Sharing bills with Ron Sexsmith, Elvis Costello and Rumer, Sermanni has been playing non-stop this year (including in the Yukon) in support of her first full-length album, Under Mountains. "Theme-wise, it explores a lot of the images established in my dreams, which play a huge part in my writing and in my general understanding of myself," she says. "I hope that people find their own reflections in it. That's nice when that happens." Life across the Atlantic seems like a magical experience.

When Sermanni thinks of The Cairngorms, the mountains near her home in the eastern Highlands and some of the highest in the country, she feels warm, she says, which inspires the energy of her album.

"Imagine a house at the foot of some ancient, rounded hills," Sermanni says, "But there's also heaviness to the title that may depict the darker edges of the songs. I sometimes imagine those underground scenes in Lord of the Rings with the orcs." Hobbit or not, there's no better way to celebrate Natal Day.

Rachel Sermanni w/Joel Plaskett, Slowcoaster, The Will Be Gones, Young River, Mo Kenney
Saturday, August 3 at 5pm, Free
Alderney Landing, 2 Ochterloney Street

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