Rosa Rebecka brings us "Home", her first EP for Folkstock Records but not her first foray into the music scene. Self-described as a "Swedish-American singer songwriter" (who is Devon-based) Rosa has made a splash on these shores through the years by building a following through her previous album releases ("Water Carvings", "Untold", and "Songs for Mrs Beautiful" respectively) and for supporting some big names such as Martin and Eliza Carthy and Cara Dillon (of course they don't really get much bigger).
The disc is interesting in it's choice of traditions it represents with both "traditional Swedish" (Det star ett trad) and "traditional Jewish" (sh'ma) numbers on the list alongside her English-language penned tracks. It feels like she is taking a second breath, simplifying from her previous albums and bringing it all back to herself and her own talents (she plays the guitar, kalimba and flute on this track). This is no bad thing though as the strength of vision often shines through on solo, personal projects and it does here. It is like a renewal, but one without compromise (after all she continues with the songs of her heritage).
"Home" exemplifies the sentiment of quieter, softly sung folk but compared to her previous works it is slower with the highs being higher and the lyrical expression being more complex. It has a more airy feel like meringue compared to double cream with the feeling of deepest Summer distilled into song. Her voice lingers with sweetness and this track amongst the others take love and warmth as the central themes she wishes to convey, "I've walked these lonely Isles without the comfort of your touch" . It is a gentle number that sparkles like ornamental glass and one that traditional folk aficionados will be in heaven with, and with good reason to be.
"Del star ett trad" (There is a tree) is an enticing number. The kalimba is a great solo addition alongside the fast vocals that paint a picture of marketplace chases or urban exploration in my mind. This is personal though as the song title and English lyrics suggest it is instead more of a traditional farming track, "Red roses are so fair to see". The link in my interpretation and the feeling of the song is around the joy of discovery and mysteries which can be felt as arteries in the track,"there is a tree on my father's farm look how strangely it's grown". I like the pacing, and it's inclusion is a bold one. The other traditional song, "sh'ma" takes a a more reverential approach as it builds around the word and it's meaning as a call towards monotheism and pledge to God. Rosa's voice curves and reaches upwards throughout the song and in these moments we feel some of the universality of folk and belief. The words mean something to Rosa, they breathe into her being, her identity and she has taken the open step of opening this to other people. It's inclusion cuts a nice contrast to older folk and Western music with strong Christian religious sentiments and brings the thought that hope and living well with others is Universal.
Another track I would like to mention is "the times I love the best". The song is an act of love and a story of healing from the singer to a broken man whose lyrics delightfully describe a person in need, "he carries on his person a dozen broken watches and a stone that once came rolling from the sea". The guitar is familiar but welcome, and the added harmonies are present yet fairly subtle; they build up in the chorus and add an extra caring dimension to Rosa's voice. It feels like she is in the room. The intimacy of this and her other songs on the EP penetrate the confines of the disc and musically sooth the strained ears and busy minds of the listeners.
The disc is a gentle wave of exploration and has the underlying themes of love and selflessness. Folkstock is a good home for Rosa Rebeckah, her penchance and confidence for including traditional works alongside her own compositions builds up a multi-cultural disc with unique expressions much like the identity behind them, and this fits well with Folkstock's roster of international folk identities. It unashamedly brings in personal traditional influences and relies predominantly on the strength of her performance rather than overly inventive methods of interpretation to fit folk into a box that several audiences come to expect. Her voice is the centre-piece and is a delight to the ears (she is indisputably glowing here), I feel that folk listeners will decide if they resonate with the raw and selfless energy she provides in "det star err trad" and "sh'ma" alongside the other songs or whether they would prefer the more recognisable combination of traditional and modern lyrical arrangements that could be made with these songs. Either way it is a forthright addition to the collection.
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