"Way down deep in the forest, Something's calling me, Stopped me dead in the middle of my tracks, To see what I could see". So starts the debut album from Shropshire based Emma and The Professor.
And indeed, it does call, this is roots music that grabs you as it binds folk and blues amongst other genres before being impeccably flourished with an acoustic Middle Eastern influenced tie.
There's an energy here too, from the opening "Old Black Crow", a bluesy high octane blast about selling your soul to the devil. Emma Heath's strong and clear vocals astound, her percussive and rhythmic guitar is the perfect match for Mark Davies who conjures a range of sound out of the Bodhran and Cajon that must be heard to be believed. Add in Benji Kirkpatrick on banjo and the track rocks. Fans of the award-winning band Babajack should be delighted.
An exquisite droning fiddle accompanies "Lily" another strong self-penned song from Heath and Davies that takes us a journey along the mystical ridgeways, memories of loved ones evoked as Ben Walsh's violin finally flies.
"Night time drifting shadows shifting twisting turning lovers yearning everlasting so enchanting" Eastern Sunrise is a true lyrical Turkish Delight that explodes with rhythm courtesy of some swirling strings (Cello, Violin &Viola) by Marion Fleetwood.
The traditional calling song "She Moved Through the Fair" is given an airing, Emma's ethereal vocals add to the intended ghostly feel of a visitor from beyond the grave. A unique take, controlled spaces, less becomes more, less sad than Cara Dillion's version, less plaintive than Anne Briggs yet more eerily, heart wrenchingly spooky. Wow doesn't even begin to describe it.
"Kisses Sweeter than Wine", a chestnut of a song, written by the Weavers, "popped up" by Frankie Vaughn and sanitized by "Peter, Paul & Mary", here it is attacked with gusto, full throttle with Benji's banjo the backdrop and all the better for it. Shout it, scream it, live it, claim it. Job done it's yours, once heard you won't want to look backwards.
"Battle Of The Marches" a call to arms, an ancient mystic force battle soon to begin "Build a fire and beat the drum, dance and sing and they will come" all wrapped round a stirring tune boosted with Bouzouki from Kirkpatrick.
Regret and introspection are addressed in "Servant Slave" an unequal relationship song, sad and sensitive, a sea change from what has become before.
A breather is all it is before "Rain and Snow" shows us another way to end a relationship. Covered by luminaries as diverse as Grateful Dead, Pentangle and Obray Ramsey (an artist who I came to via Iain Matthews), this traditional song in Emma and The Professors hands becomes a foot tapping stomper driven by a racy country style fiddle from Jack Rowe and powered on by Mark's Cajon and emotionally lifted by Emma's vocals. You can just image this going down a storm on the festival scene.
Add in a cover of the Levellers "Men-an-Tol" which sounds as good if not better than the original and the album concludes which the Middle Eastern influenced "Rivers". It leaves you wanting more.
To make the "Old Black Crow" Emma and The Professor may well have sold their souls to the devil. The music is quite honestly so amazingly good, mixing original tales of myth and folklore that sit happily side by side with definitive versions of more well-known material.
If you don't see these guys on the Festival Scene, you'll regret it. Trust me.
|Calum Alex Macmillan: Till||Tilly Moses: Alight & Adrift|
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