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This album has an opening track so good that everyone might as well pack up and go home when it’s finished. It opens with delicate harp and lovely warm bass. The voice emerges through the fog - a beautiful thing - somewhere between Sandy Denny and Nico. It’s a delightful folky treat with lots of nods toward Fairport Convention and Pentangle but it’s hard not to think of something more contemporary, an English, plummy Joanna Newsom for example. It sounds just like Joanna Lumley playing the harp.
It twists and turns all over - she admits to kissing BOTH the captain AND the cabin boy, the little minx. The remainder of the album continues the complex twistathons and elaborate string plucking never quite reaching the same pirouetting pinnacles. ‘Ballad of Brick Lane’ is performed in the manner of a precocious home counties school girl but like a lot of the album is a soft aural delight. ‘Lady Fortune’ is one of the more compositionally strong pieces on here, with a lovely lilting melody and some tremendous staccato playing on the chorus, breaking down once the vocals have gone into a wonderful fade out, as if Brian Eno has suddenly got hold of the whole thing and added his trademark sonics to the mix.
At times (and ‘Skinny Dipping’ is a good example of this) it gets a little bit twee - ‘you were cross!’ - she bleats. But overall it’s tremendously clever and often tremendously affecting. It reminds me of the most English of English things, a church spire, a hockey game being played out in the late summer afternoon, bees, a ham sandwich, late afternoon tea and a soft breeze blowing off the south downs.
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