It would be easy to have certain preconceptions before listening to the first album from Elizabeth Ann Jones, performing as Elfin Bow. From the cover design, the font style, the song titles, to the list of instruments involved (mandolin, fiddle, banjo, "nature vocalsations"), it all screams out traditional folk. I have to confess I popped the CD into the player believing I knew exactly how the twelve songs would play out. I was wrong.
Despite kicking off with perhaps the song sounding closest to traditional folk, The First Red Leaf Of Autumn, overall the album is a somewhat subversive experience. She is described as a 21st century folk artist, a storyteller with one foot rooted in tradition, and the other venturing into the future. It's as apt a description as any. While this has all the ingredients of folk, the music has just as much in common with the likes of Kate Bush or Tori Amos, with an ethereal sound that still packs a punch.
Her stall is set out early in songs such as Daffadilly Down, which has a traditional title, but the song transcends simple genre tags. The middle section of the album is probably the strongest, featuring two tracks about the Witch of Melling, Grimshaw and the Fingerclaw and Edith's Song, and The Wisdom, the single released last summer. They feature strong storytelling and beautiful vocals, and it is no wonder that The Wisdom, a song about finding your own voice (which Jones has certainly done here), was picked for the first single.
Overall the album treads the line between joy and sorrow very well, giving this a bittersweet feel at times. There is an undercurrent of anger that threads through the record, coming up to the surface rarely but still lending an emotional heft even when it is hidden deeper in the song.
The album ends with the upbeat Prairie Madness which perfectly appropriates the old children's nursery rhyme, Clap Hands Till Daddy Comes. It's such a delightful song that burrows its way into your brain and refuses to let go, and will leave you either humming, whistling or singing it to yourself, often at inappropriate moments.
Elfin Bow is a rising star of the modern folk scene, and it is easy to see why. This is a beautiful album, with bewitching vocals and stunning musical accompaniment (with no fewer than nine musical talents supporting her, including Siberian musician Saydyko Fedorova who provides the nature vocalisations). She is clearly going to be one to watch in 2017.
|Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band: Big Machine||West Of Mabou: West Of Mabou|
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