reviewed by Eleni Armenakis
The musical couple of 100 Mile House named their fourth album Hiraeth, a Welsh word with no direct English translation that means “a sense of nostalgia and longing for place or person that may never have existed.” And while the first blustery day of winter may have us longing for something quite specific, that infectious, intangible nostalgia seeps into our bones as quickly as the biting cold—though far more welcome.
Transatlantic husband and wife Peter Stone and Denise MacKay have travelled the world and North America as they toured for albums, and returned to MacKay’s home of Edmonton to record their latest—a heartbroken, persevering journey full of honesty and vulnerability that pulls in the classically trained Scott Zubot as his strings pull out the agony of “Against The Grain” and the mournful “Last Branch.”
But for all the miles that 100 Mile House may have tread, there’s still a distinct taste of home as the opening notes echo The Barr Brothers and the lonely, wild woods of Canada’s expansive forests. “Intro” and “Hiraeth” merge into one solemn call, bringing together old Celtic sorrows and a rustic western folk that draws out what’s been hidden away.
Guitar notes mingle more joyfully with a lively violin on “Hidden Springs,” before the dancing “Brighton Beach” captures a day long ago—and the happy memories lost with it. Both songs are tucked between Hiraeth’s sadder notes, even as MacKay’s first lead on “All We Have” drums its way determinedly out of the devastating “Last Branch” as the couple take up the chorus, singing “If all that we have is each other, then that’s enough.”
The song marks a turn in the album as Stone and MacKay turn to each other and fall in for the exuberant “I’m A Fighter.” There’s a more quiet affection on display in “Old Haunts” before “Seeds” ends the album with a renewed sense of life as it turns to spring—even if, like today, it feels so very far away.
Top Tracks: “Hiraeth”; “Old Haunts”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) + *swoop*