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Reviews

Jenn and Laura-Beth Jenn and Laura-Beth
Album: Bound
Label: JBLB
Tracks: 11
Website: http://www.jennandlb.com

That’s Jenn Butterworth and Laura-Beth Salter. Both of them have been around the UK folk scene for a number of years. Jenn’s an exceptional guitarist, whose career began touring with the Anna Massie Band; only last year, she participated in the award-winning Songs Of Separation project. Mandolinist and singer Laura-Beth’s a founder member of The Shee, and released her debut solo album Breathe back in 2013. Jenn and Laura-Beth were brought together by the close-knit and progressive Glasgow folk community, and for the past eight years they’ve also pursued a parallel career performing live as a duo; they therefore regard Bound as a representation of those years of playing together, a snapshot of where they’ve come from and where they are now. The recording has a strong and immediate, very-much-live feel, and the lasses’ playing and their intense rapport are wonderfully natural. Bound presents the best of all worlds from their eclectic repertoire, reinventing older tunes and songs and delighting us with self-penned songs and tunes as well as some more recent covers in the shape of songs from contemporary writers. Whatever they’re playing though, there’s a real freshness and deep joy about the duo’s performances.

Generally speaking, and probably more as a result of the instrumentation (mandolin and guitar) than anything else, the prevailing idiom of Bound is bluegrass and folk-Americana, dispatched with a brilliant sense of complementary melody and rhythm that would give the more famous Nashville guys a run for their money. Though more often recalling the fabulous escapades of The Carrivick Sisters and Nickel Creek, perhaps. The Apple At The Crossroads tune-set midway through the disc is a highlight among the non-vocal tracks, and contains some particularly fiery playing, as does the equally dynamic pairing of Hasse’s A and 32 Bars Of Filth, the latter a breakneck Shooglenifty favourite. But while celebrating and praising the lasses’ considerable instrumental chops we mustn’t undersell their vocal prowess, with some extraordinarily fine solo leads (as on Jean Ritchie’s Let The Sun Shine Down On Me, a strong and suitably rousing “bound for glory” album-opener, and Boo Hewerdine’s lovely waltzer Wings On My Heels), and their beautifully-controlled, gently expert harmonies a-blending so gloriously on songs such as There Is A Time (from the repertoire of The Dillards, you’ll recall), the Kate Wolf classic (Across The) Great Divide, and the soulful Mindy Smith gospeller Come To Jesus (a fantastic choice for closing track). It’s paying Jenn and Laura-Beth the highest of compliments when I write that their voices interweave together so well that it’s often hard to tell them apart.

Jenn and Laura-Beth’s recorded debut as a duo is just Bound to set your candle alight with its sparkling, bright and breezy vibe, stunning playing and singing and overall feelgood (but at the same time thoughtful) demeanour.

David Kidman