What the Reviewers said
– about her albums
Some Kind of Love
"The long overdue debut of one of the finest Scottish singers of her generation. Heather Heywood is a singer who can also hold a general audience with the power and commitment she brings to a ballad. The voice, natural, flexible, expressive and compelling is superb throughout, holding the attention, with brilliant versions of Lord Lovat, Let No Man Steal Your Thyme, and Bonnie Laddie Ye Gang By Me, and a spine-tingling rendering of the most difficult ballad The Cruel Mother. This scarcely needed the eerie drone that producer Brian MacNeill put down to make it the most stunning version currently available. (the only other which stands comparison is an early Jean Redpath album). A triumph for Heather Heywood - and my record of the year".
Sheena Wellington - Radio Tay.
"Heather Heywood is one of the Scottish folk scene's best kept secrets. An extremely fine singer who has kept a surprisingly low profile for many years - and then out of the blue produces this absolute cracker of a record. Heather sings in an uncomplicated manner that belies her skill in putting across the big songs, grabbing and holding the attention. She has obviously learnt a lot from the likes of Jeannie Robertson and Lizzie Higgins, and still has youth on her side - Heather's Lord Lovat and a nine minute The Cruel Mother are both masterpieces, In terms of quality, I'm minded of some of the wonderful Irish women singers around, even though the singing style is different.
This album comes highly recommended by a certain M. Carthy; I would go further and suggest that it comes into the 'required listening' category, certainly for anyone that considers themselves a singer, or a connoisseur of singing. Wonderful stuff - would the person responsible kindly ensure the follow-up doesn't take another 15 years!"
Bob Walton - Folk Roots
Scottish folk revival singer Heather Heywood's first Greentrax recording brings us renditions of six traditional and two contemporary songs delivered in a patient, deliberate, and very warm manner. Martin Carthy's notes say "there is in her singing a generosity of spirit" and her smooth, steady voice is perfectly suited for the material she has chosen. There are three a cappella numbers, and on the others Heather received atmospheric backing by guitar, keyboards, uilleann pipes, and the fiddle/viola/mandolin of Brian McNeill; the two standouts here are superb versions of "Sally Gardens" and "My Bonnie Moorhen."
Al Riess (Buffalo, NY) Dirty Linen
By Yon Castle
Heather Heywood has one of those glorious voices that demand your attention and is considered by many as one of the finest of today's Scottish singers, especially when it comes to singing the big traditional ballads. Which makes the opening track of her second album a bit of a surprise - an up tempo multi-tracked treatment of the Sands Of The Shore with what sounds like the Battlefield Band in full flight. It's very effective, though, and beautifully sets of the understated and unaccompanied For Over The Forth that follows.
Heather undoubtedly benefits from CD technology - there's time enough for the big songs like The Wife of Usher's Well, Young Watters and the Dowie Dens Of Yarrow, as well as time for some more contemporary material as a contrast, such as Hugh Williams' Some People Cry and Peggy Seeger's Song For A New Baby. In fact By Yon Castle Wa' runs to nearly 65 minutes - generous indeed.
Producer Brian MacNeill - aided by Dougie Pincock on pipes, Ron Shaw on cello and others - has achieved a good balance between unaccompanied songs, and sympathetic accompaniments. Even the old cliche, a simple drone accompaniment, is done to perfection on Heather's (definitive?) MacCrimmon's Lament. The sleeve notes quote Sheena Wellington - no mean singer herself - Heather Heywood's singing will move you to laughter, tears, to pity or to anger with no histrionics, no pretensions, just sheer skill - and love". I can't do better than that. Heather's first album was a real eye-opener - this one is sublime.
Bob Walton. Folk Roots
I'd always thought of Ray Fisher as the quintessential interpreter of Scottish songs, particularly for her handling of the big ballads, but then this second recording by Heather Heywood showed up in my PO Box and after only one listening, I realised that Fisher was going to have to share her crown. Any number of listenings later, and the initial impact that By Yon Castle Wa' made on me has only been strengthened.
The accompanied songs are wonderful, ably assisted as she is by the Battlefield Band's Brian McNeill and Dougie Pincock, Colin Matheson of Ceolbeg and the like, with the eerie combination of pipes and voice on "MacCrimmon's Lament" being the real standout. But it's on the unaccompanied material that she really shines. Her singing of "Young Watters," "The Dowie Dens O'Yarrow" and "The Corncrake Amang the Whinnie Knowes" are literally chill-up-the-spine versions, more remarkable still, perhaps, for her effectively sparse decorations. The melodies and voice in such performances are forced to stand alone and Heywood's interpretations are simply riveting. Don't walk, run to your nearest record retailer for a copy of this remarkable album.
Charles de Lint (Ottawa, Ontario) Dirty Linen
To say that Heather Heywood's second album has been long awaited is not an understatement. Since the 1988 release of her debut album "Some Kind of Love", her voice has reached all parts of the World and has made a niche for her as Scotlands most acclaimed female singer. Not since the days of Jeannie Robertson has there been a talent that can tackle the epic ballads with such grace and dignity. Heather takes them and makes them into a new and richer experience each time. On "By Yon Castle Wa'" her second album, Heather features some of the greatest ballads in the Scottish tradition can produce. The standouts are her handling of ‘MacCrimmons Lament’, a truly wonderful piece with the dramatic narrative giving way to a beautiful extract from the piobaireachd ‘MacCrimmons Sweetheart’. The chilling ‘Young Watters’ is another standout as is the classic ‘Dowie Dens O' Yarrow’ and ‘Far Over the Forth’, ‘False False Hae Ye Been’ and ‘The Corncrake Amang the Whinnie Knowes’ all expertly display her ability to handle the serious ballads with great ability. She makes each song sound as though written for her.
She also has a wonderful ability with contemporary songs and some of the best newly written songs of recent years are here. Included is Hugh Williams ‘Some People Cry’ and his ability to evoke a truly emotional reaction through his songs is perfectly interpreted by Heather here. ‘The Sands O' The Shore’ is another recent song often heard in singarounds that translates well to the recorded medium. ‘For A New Baby’ is both eloquent and emotional losing nothing in the words being changed. ‘Paul's Song’ is the most unusual here but is a perfect way to close the album, an expert delivery of a lyric that has held the imagination of people for over 2000 years and still sounds both ideal and realistic at the same time.
Heather’s interpretative powers have been will known in her native Scotland for many years. It's time the rest of the world took notice of her major talent. By Yon Castle Wa' is proof that she has emerged as the most powerful interpreter of scottish song of her generation, we have at last someone to follow in the path of Jeannie Robertson and take the interpretation of traditional songs to a new level of importance. Heather Heywood has passed the acid text with flying colours and emerged triumphant. By Yon Castle Wa' is not just a great album, it is a monster of an album. Hear it at your earliest opportunity. It is too good to miss.
John O'Regan - Broadcaster - Limerick, Ireland
June Tabor - "Angel Tiger" - Cooking Vinyl COOKCD049
Heather Heywood - "By Yon Castle Wa" - Greentrax CDTRAX 054
June Tabor is the most singular female singer the English folk scene has produced these past several decades. That said, she's by no means merely a 'folksinger', and there's absolutely nothing 'folkclubbish' about the sound of her latest album. If you want to hear the difference between a great singer and a merely competent one, listen to Angel Tiger's final track. Les Barket's Elephant is a magnificent song - very much more than just yet another 'ecology' or 'protest' number - and Tabor's performance is quite stunning. Her vocal equipment is indeed remarkable, but it's the mind behind it which makes the difference. As is true of much of the album, the accompaniment is at once very spare and very dramatic - a solitary piano for most of the song, and a really startling saxaphone coda.
Not everything on Angel Tiger is so superb, but generally an enormous improvement over Tabor's preceding two, more than somewhat stilted (and worst) albums. Most of its songs are contemporary, including one nicely biting look at royalty, especially written for Tabor by Elvis Costello. She also manages to extract far more from Billy Bragg's Rumours of War than did its author; and while Bob Dylon recently simply stole a Nic Jones version of a traditional song and then did a lousy version of it, Ms Tabor takes the trouble to acknowledge the source and to sing an extraordinarily beautiful, unique version of Ten Thousand Miles. Soprano and tenor saxophones, cello, double bass, piano and percussion all sound perfectly natural elements in her very haunting treatment of the traditional song of a true-lovers' parting. Tabor does not write the songs she sings, but chooses then with great care; in most cases I suspect their authors would be well-pleased, and even humbled: I've not heard the original of Michael Marra's Happed in Mist, but it's hard to imagine a finer reading of a difficult song (one which variously observes and adopts the persona of the 'disgraced deserter' facing the firing squad in Flanders Field).
Scots singer Heather Heywood is relatively new to my ears, although she too has been singing for many years and is particularly admired by her peers. It's easy to hear why. She's a different kind of singer from Tabor - Heywood is somewhat sweeter, simpler and more inclined to celebrate love. She shares a similar ability to get to the very core of a song. Like Tabor, Heywood obviously takes great care to sing only those which really mean something to her, whether they be trad/anon or contemporary.
Heywood's version of MacCrimmon's Lament is superb, and benefits from some fine piping by Dougie Pincock, plus a touch of Ron Shaw's cello. She, like Tabor, is particularly fine when absolutely solo - there are several notable examples on By Yon Castle Wa', most especially Heywood's version of The Corncake Amang the Whinnie Knowes. Whilst the iron and irony so often present in Tabor's singing are largely absent in that of her Scottish counterpart, there's nothing twee about Heywood. The song just mentioned can be decidedly cloying from a lesser performer and Paul's Song - a contemporary one, with words largely borrowed from St Paul's First Letter to the Corinithians ('If I spoke with tongues of ... angels ... and I could not speak with love ...') - is another which can easily degenerate into schlock, but is here very moving. Anyone familiar with the work of the album's producer and multi-instrumentalist, Brian McNeill, will not be the least surprised to discover that the arrangements are both tasteful and imaginative - purely musical, whilst free of arid 'purism'. By Yon Castle Wa' is warmly recommended, and repeated listening has made me more fond even of the songs which did not move me immediately.