Rachel Sermanni at Cecil Sharp House, gig review: Captivating talent

She incorporates characters from or inspired by her native Highlands

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Apparently slightly uncomfortable beneath the spotlight, Rachel Sermanni cuts a frail figure behind her acoustic guitar.

But her voice is clear and strong – she has Karine Polwart's skill at picking each note with extreme precision – and her fellow Scot’s themes of lovers, life and death run through amid flashes of lyrical genius on “Old Ladies Lament”.

What makes Sermanni so refreshing as a songwriter is that she is unafraid to use her imagination. While other artists in their early twenties might stick firmly to what they know, she incorporates characters from or inspired by her native Highlands, and others are snatched right from her worst nightmares.

The fittingly haunting "I've Got a Girl", with its stomp and hint of Tom Waits swagger, recalls Hozier's blues influences or Ben Howard's darker turn on 2014’s I Forget Where We Were.

"Banks Are Broken" is one of the most sincere tributes to young heartbreak heard in a long while: a duet where both voices understand it is time to let go.

Sermanni is a captivating talent, so much so that as she closes the night, standing by a piano in her red dress, the listener realises that they’ve been holding their breath for some time.