Kevin Bourke chats to the fiddle-playing sisters from the Peak District, who explore transient ideas of ‘home’ on their new CD
Sometimes something special can happen when siblings play together, and that’s certainly the case with The Rheingans Sisters, Rowan and Anna. A pair of fiddler-singers who hail from Sheffield and were raised in the Peak District, the sisters released their debut, Glad Gold Hearts, in 2014. Their new collection Already Home is thrilling, not simply because of the particular connection that arises from their shared early lives immersed in folk music – significantly, almost all the instruments that Rowan and Anna play have been hand-crafted for them in Grindleford, Derbyshire by their luthier dad, Helmut.
As they now spend most of their time living far apart immersed in different musical worlds, it is as much about their separate musical journeys since their debut. Their reconnection for this recording is a hugely significant factor in an album that is engagingly playful, inventive and musically open-hearted, yet nuanced and thoughtful.
Rowan (pictured above right) is well-known as part of BBC Folk Award nominated trio Lady Maisery as well as for her work with Nancy Kerr & The Sweet Visitor Band and also with the Songs of Separation super-group alongside Eliza Carthy, Karine Polwart and other notables. She believes “it’s an honest, intimate album, which I think reflects the last few years of our musical lives. We’ve both dug deeper into our musical landscapes and made composition a more central part of what we do. I think we are clearer about the kind of atmosphere we want our music to create and we’ve taken more risks to try and get there. Dylan Fowler, who recorded the album with us over five days in the remote forest studio, Stiwdio Felin Fach, in mid-Wales, had a big influence on the music too. He created the right conditions for me and Anna to really connect with each other, so we could play freely and have lots of space for improvisation, which is where the magic happens.”
Anna now lives in Toulouse in southern France, where she is a much sought-after fiddle player, playing in three separate bands of her own there, as well as teaching traditional French music, having just gained a first-class diploma from the Centre Occitan des Musiques et Danses Traditionnelles.
The title Already Home, Anna says, “refers to the transient and changing ideas of ‘home’ in both a practical sense and otherwise. As full-time musicians, sometimes it’s hard to really know where ‘home’ is when we spend so much of the time between places, as lots of people do for all kinds of reasons. Then there’s the deep and intrinsic connection of folk music to place and to people’s strong feelings of home, whether you play the music of the country you are from or, like me, the one you’ve adopted! But of course, folk tunes and songs are at once ‘from somewhere’ and also ‘from everywhere.’ These things are always moving around, a bit like the two of us and like all of us.”
ALBUM Already Home was a Top of the World review in issue #114 (January/February 2015)