Explaining the Waterson/Carthy dynasty is a job for another time and place, but for the sake of brevity think of it as being to British folk as the Kennedy's is to American politics. Marry is the daughter of Lal who, alongside sister Norma, husband Martin and brother Mike effectively kick started the contemporary folk renaissance that continues to ripple to this day.
So, after several outings with her brother Olly Knight, two years ago Marry hooked up with gifted guitarist/singer-songwriter David A Jaycock to release the superlative Two Wolves. A treat for the heart and the head, it revelled in the baggage that inevitably came with it as it celebrated a distinctly English folk noir with a quiet, canny confidence.
This superb successor picks up the baton and runs even further with it aided by song writing partners including Kathryn Williams, John Parish (PJ Harvey), Romeo Stodart of Magic Numbers and Elysian Quartet's Emma Smith. Once again Marry channels her mother's voice, but is never enslaved by the similarities; if anything her innate understanding of where the voice will take the song adds yet more layers to the deceptively simple production, courtesy of Portishead's Adrian Utley.
This is stark, stony sonic ground, richly atmospheric, often chilling and yet interlaced with moments of utter lyrical and musical beauty. The setting is perfect for the record's opening cut The Vain Jackdaw. Based on Aesop's fable, it is announced by a richly toned guitar declamation, which gives way to Marry's unaccompanied voice to recount the salutary story of the bird and his coat of borrowed feathers.
The breath taking title track is inspired by the maidens' crowns that would be carried before the coffins of young women who died as virgins to be, as the lyrics have it, buried in chastity. Conversely, Gunshot Lips is anything but sweet as it chronicles a dysfunctional, possibly abusive, romantic entanglement.
The plaintive Forgive Me and the yearning On the Second Tide weather well this fertile environment as Utley creates a sparse, splintered soundscape where space becomes it own rhythm and the occasional spectre of a groove emerges from the ether. All of which builds to the album's brightest moment, Small Ways and Slowly, in which a far fuller musical ensemble steers an intensely beautiful song within touching distance of the commercial mainstream.
It's a stand out moment on an album that has no shortage of delights.
|Martin Simpson: Trails & Tribulations||Mogwai: Every Country's Sun|
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