- Blue sky vinyl (signed)
“In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.” ― Mary Oliver, Upstream
Nestled deep in the heart of the Cairngorms, right above Glenmore and not too far from Lochan Uaine – about a mile east, exactly – sits Ryvoan Bothy. Once a crofters cottage and now an overnight shelter for hikers, the bothy is a welcome retreat for those journeying onwards into the hills of Rothiemurchus and beyond. Inside, there’s a little stove, a wide bench to sleep on, a big pile of felled logs and plenty of candlesticks. If you’d stumbled upon Ryvoan in 1939, you might’ve found a crumpled note tacked onto the door, too. On it was an anonymously hand scribbled poem, most likely left behind by someone seeking shelter for the evening: “For tonight I leave from Euston and leave the world behind; Who has the hills as a lover, will find them wondrous kind.”
Raveloe is Glasgow based musician Kim Grant and her new record Exit Light opens with a note left somewhere, too. On a countertop, to be exact, only this time with its contents left to the imagination. Exit Light is, in a lot of ways, an exploration of the outdoors and our connection with nature — an ode to the juxtaposition of city living in Glasgow and the vast landscapes that exist only a few hours away from us all, beyond the tenement buildings and the buzz of weekday life. “The sun won’t come that high over the tenements for a long while, so I drag my chair where the branches lay bare with all the hardy kinds and the sweet pines.”
It makes sense, then, that Grant found herself in Silas Marner, the protagonist of Mary Ann Evans’ 1961 novel Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe. Silas is cut off from his community but finds refuge in the remote village of Raveloe, nestled in a snug well-wooded hollow with a fine old church. Silas weaves, turns fibres into fabric. Kim writes, turns odes to the natural world and life all at once into delicate guitar driven snapshots. Her songs, she says, are to be heard “on a mountain, in a city, in a bedroom, through the window”. These are songs made by Kim mostly, with finishing touches from a lineup of familiar Glasgow based musicians: Susan Bear, Jill O’Sullivan, Simon Liddell, Paul Kelly.
The record sleeve houses a painting by Grant herself – a landscape of imagery, of everything, that weaves Exit Light together. There’s a white cottage with a thatched roof, not too dissimilar from Ryovan Bothy, except this time it’s in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland and it’s a home. It’s been home to Margaret Gallagher since she was born there 81 years ago. She lives off the land with no central heating or running water and only a radio transistor to connect her to the outside world. That’s what Kim does best, in the end: takes the intricacies of rural life, in all its quiet and remoteness and pairs it with life in a bustling, alive city: what that sounds like. What it feels like. There’s a bus stop, too. Some tall hills and a back door with an exit light right above it. On the front cover sits Kim, amidst the brush of Govan docks. It’s an immediate nod towards what’s to come within the eleven tracks of Exit Light — that contrast of what every day living is like in Glasgow and the rich nature surrounding us that we often take for granted.
The LP’s second track, The Chair Is Nowhere, is perhaps best at putting all of these words into something tangible. There’s a likeliness to Adrianne Lenker in Grant’s vocal delivery. It’s urgent, mostly, but it’s more intricate than that. It entwines in and out of acoustic guitar and echoing strings. Raveloe makes delicate folk music on the surface but it’s more intricate than that, too. Exit Light is a culmination of so many things: a deep love of traditional Scottish ballads, of strings and collaboration with trusted friends, of love and loss and how sometimes both of those things combined can be beautifully heart-wrenching to navigate.
When I listen to Kim, I hear Mary Oliver’s Upstream. I hear Nan Shepherd’s ode to The Living Mountain. But mostly, I hear Raveloe and the world she’s created, woven together from the threads of our own.
Lauren T / monorail music
Exit Light (Signed Copies) – Raveloe has been added to your bag.