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"Hard Hitting Emotional Folk Music."

What do you get if you take Shooglenifty, Breabach and Jamie Smith’s Mabon, pass them through a grinder and make burgers from the result? No, I don’t know either. It was a pointless analogy really. However, when I listen to CherryGrove, I get the sense of all those groups fused into one selection of hard hitting emotional folk music.

This fresh quintet of musicians, all studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, bring a hugely enjoyable mix of traditional Scottish jigs & reels along with more modern poppy folk with a good selection of instrumental sets broken up by beautifully sung songs. The strikingly bright purple shade of Marianne Fraser’s hair on guitar certainly helped keep my attention focussed on them as they began the concert!

The set started off with a punchy instrumental that seemed to get some minor head bobbing from some of the audience and no doubt quite a few toes discreetly tapping inside shoes – I know my own were. It feels somewhat odd to sit in a subdued, seated environment, listening respectfully to such a lively group. Resisting the urge to get up and dance was certainly tricky on some of the faster tunes played through the session.

As the set progressed, the expected changes between hard and fast instrumental to soft, soulful singing threaded its way through the concert hall like a sine wave. I don’t believe it was too difficult to work out what the body of the audience were feeling after each set as the level and enthusiasm of clapping shifted between respectful, almost polite, clapping and enthusiastic applause. Annoyingly, the only song name I can recall was “1, 2, 3, 4, 5” and for my own tastes was by far the weakest part of the session, combining beautifully emotional music with the most mundane words I’ve heard for a long time. I don’t recall the level of applause after the song, so I can’t comment on what I believe the audience as a whole felt about it.

Perhaps another weak point was the vocal set-up itself. Not the singer – Marianne has a wonderfully sweet and rich voice – but the volume on her microphone was too low which made it quite difficult to make out her singing clearly unless the instruments were being played quite softly. As I was in the third row, I can only imagine how much harder it must have been to hear her near the back of the hall. Between sets, each musician took a turn at announcing the next set and, again, volume was a distinct concern. I could barely hear a word Marianne, Sarah or Mhairi said, although both Grant and Heather spoke more loudly – at least for the third row, although I suspect their voices carried further back quite well.

Apart from the vocal levels annoyance, this genuinely was a highly enjoyable set. All the musicians are clearly accomplished and they work very well together. It’s rare I hear a piano being played in folk music and think “that worked well”, but in this instance Heather plays with such a light vibrancy that I regularly forgot she was on a piano at all and it blends wonderfully with the group as a result. Mhairi on fiddle has a great tone and resonance, but it would be nice to see her take more of a lead on the occasional tune. Marianne and Grant, on guitar and accordion respectively, were … well to be honest, I’m struggling to think of anything specific to say here. This is in no way a bad thing. I think they’re both so competent and professional on their instruments that there was nothing that surprised me. I’m just going to have to go with the same old rhetoric that their playing was incredibly good and plays a vital part in shaping the style of the group. No really, I’m being nice here. I know it doesn’t sound like it, but I am. Honest!

So moving swiftly on … this leaves Sarah on the harp. I’ve deliberately left her to last as I’ve always had a bit of a problem with the harp in general. I’ve always liked the idea of the harp, but I’ve only ever heard it being played in a stereotypical way or as part of a large symphony orchestra where the only reason you know there’s a harp, is because you can see it. Thanks to CherryGrove and Sarah, my perception has been changed substantially. Sarah, on her harp, is not just there to look impressive and make pretty noises rarely heard, she is clearly an equal with the other members of the group and takes her share of playing the lead as well as supportive playing. There was one track in particular, quite a fast one, where she played quickly and loudly and I was instantly forced to think of the way Shooglenifty uses a mandolin. For me this was an absolutely incredible experience and would have made the concert worthwhile on its own.

In summary, a truly wonderful concert that I am delighted to have been able to attend. Highly enjoyable with a good range of styles and speeds throughout to tug the heart strings (as well as the harp strings). It would be nice to see more attention paid to the vocal levels in future, but overall I think this is a young group that is very much worth keeping an eye on – as a group and as individual musicians when they inevitably do their own projects as well.

You can find out about CherryGrove and hear a few sample tracks on their website along with getting updates on Twitter and Facebook. - Drulum


CherryGrove Debut EP - Released 10/10/12
Available to buy @
Also available on iTunes and Spotify.

Tracks, inc. "Lost" have been played on local radio stations regularly.



A fresh new band, bursting with talent and energy, CherryGrove – former and present students of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – take guitar, fiddle, piano, harp and accordion to new contemporary folk heights. With lively jigs and reels contrasted with warm, soulful songs, they are a crisp, modern take on tradition – delivered with flair and style.

We really want to let people hear our music and if you are willing to give us a gig we can give you even more value with workshops. We have a varied and dynamic line up (accordion, fiddle, guitar, harp & piano) and are able to offer workshops for all ages and abilities. We enjoy teaching and from studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and teaching regularly, we have a wealth of experience that we want to share with people!

"CherryGrove are brilliant,
CherryGrove are good,
and the best thing about cherries,
is they are also food"
Phil Cunningham (2012)