IT is hard to believe that it has been four years since Kinnaris Quintet announced their arrival on the traditional music scene with Free One, their critically acclaimed debut album.

Since then their trajectory has been nothing short of stellar, culminating in the five-piece winning the Belhaven Bursary in 2019, the second richest music prize in the UK, worth a cool £25,000.

At that time the band had plans on how best to use their windfall but then the pandemic struck and life for all of us changed immeasurably.

As fiddler Aileen Reid explains, “There was a fair bit of pressure as our debut was so highly praised and somewhat unexpected!

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“We tried to stay away from looking too deeply into what we should/could/wanted to do, and with the pandemic we quite honestly just did the only thing we were able to do – create what we could with what we could.”

What they have created is no longer unexpected. The interplay between the five women has only become stronger since they first formed in 2017 and their long-awaited second album, This Too (as in, this too shall pass) which was released last week, stands testament to this shared vision and interconnectedness.

From the opening bars of Wonderful, listeners are eased back into a world where bluegrass, Scottish folk, Irish folk and everything in between are allowed to meld together into the unique sound which will be reassuringly familiar to fans. The ambition this time, however, is markedly fuller.

While the album still captures the raw essence of the band – best encapsulated by their live shows – the way in which they play off each other has matured into something really quite special.

The guitar of Jenn Butterworth and the mandolin of long-time collaborator and friend Laura-Beth Salter dance together while around them fiddlers Fiona MacAskill, Laura Wilkie and Reid, weave sometimes delicate, sometimes driving harmonies, that speak to a band no longer shocked by their success but determined to build upon it.

“Every track on it is an emotional rollercoaster of some sort,” says Reid. “It’s definitely, in hindsight, reflective of how we felt over the last two years. We faced so many challenges from lockdowns, becoming new mothers, being penniless and forced out of any income, being single mothers and homeschooling, shielding, having to upskill in order to potentially earn, trying not to lose our marbles completely, having our entire livelihood, social lives, hobbies, and essentially (musical) family stripped from us without any hope or help for a long, long time.

“The restrictions in place over the last few years really made us question so much about music,” says Reid. “It was evident that it wasn’t seen as an important thing in life, quite literally it was deemed as ‘non-essential’. If you’re constantly being told that something isn’t important or needed, it starts to become difficult to justify why you’re investing time in it.

“We had to really push ourselves and each other to keep going, justifying the importance of creating music time and time again.

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“We felt an obligation to contribute to the world around us that was in such a sorry, sad state, and if the only way we could do that was to spread some joy with some new music, then that’s what we would do.”

In that respect it is certainly mission accomplished. From the moment the band returned to the live stage, culminating in this year’s joyous gig at St Luke’s in Glasgow for Celtic Connections, it has been clear what the public would be missing had Kinnaris succumbed.

However, not only have they survived, they have thrived and gone on to make an album so filled with the joy of music that it is hard to imagine it was not always destined to be the pandemic’s folkie full stop.

This Too is available to buy on CD and stream and download on all digital platforms.