Singer/songwriter Dot Allison announced her first new album since 2009, Heart-Shaped Scars, set to come out on July 30 via SA Recordings. She also shared her first official song since then, “Long Exposure.”
It’s a dreamy folk recording, said to be representative of the new album’s general style. Allison wrote it on a ukulele, by picking the instrument like other folk artists would play a harp. It has a very European folklore-inspired sound, made complete by a lush string arrangement and occasional piano. She comes in with the vocals, “I didn’t think you’d lie to me/My love for you it was pure like glitter on the snow,” and begins telling the story of a woman waiting for her lover to return to her.
“[‘Long Exposure’ is] one of the first songs I wrote on ukulele,” Allison explains. “Last March I picked up the instrument and started composing. The fact I don’t play the ukulele was very freeing and I had to compose purely by ear, constructing my own chord clusters.”
Allison says Heart-Shaped Scars is her most personal record to date. The general themes touch on “Love, loss and a universal longing for union that seems to go with the human condition. To me, music is a sort of tonic or an antidote to a kind of longing, for a while at least.” It also combines her interests in music, literature, science and nature. She states, “I wanted it to be comforting like a familiar in-utero heartbeat, a pure kind of album that musically imbues a return to nature.”
A Scottish folk quintet joined her on the recording, providing the strings heard throughout the album. The songs were arranged by Hannah Peel and co-produced by Allison and Fiona Cruickshank. The album was recorded in Allison’s hometown Edinburgh, at Castlesound Studios. It also features two songwriting collaborations, with Amy Bowman “The Haunted” and with Zoë Bestel on “Can You Hear Nature Sing?”
In addition to the folk arrangements, Allison included field recordings of birdsong, rivers and other sounds captured near her cottage in The Hebrides islands. Although “Long Exposure” doesn’t have any of them, she still associates the single with the islands since it’s also the location where some of her folk musician friends gather for “sharing ideas and passing instruments between us all, amongst friends and the island community.” Sarah Campbell and Amy Bowman are also members of that group. Allison explains, “It’s where I first sang ‘Long Exposure’ in public at a folk house-concert. So, I can definitely hear some of the Hebrides in ‘Heart-Shaped Scars’.
She counts many different folk musicians as her inspiration, including Karen Dalton, Gene Clark, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Nick Drake and Brian Wilson. Allison also had to shoutout the late legendary producer Andy Weatherall, who produced Morning Dove White, the album she recorded with her band One Dove in the 1990s that launched her career. Weatherall was also thanked for having “championed, signed and mentored me… I hear his influence throughout all of my albums.”
After her downtempo trio One Dove broke up, she released her debut solo album Afterglow in 1999. It combined some of the band’s influences with the dreamy folk that she would become known for as a solo artist. Her other official studio albums include We Are Science (2002), Exaltation of Larks (2007) and Room 7½ (2009).