Straightforwardly classic-sounding American Country & Western music from an unlikely source: the 21-year-old English singer Holly Macve. Golden Eagle, which was recorded in Newcastle, feels older and more experienced than its years, and Holly’s voice is a remarkable sound. Out on Bella Union.
8/10 Robin Staff review, 02 March 2017
Total and quintessential Americana written by a musician from Yorkshire? Dishonest! Sad! Apologise! With her gloriously countrified acoustic pieces and her Southern croon, Holly Macve certainly sounds like she just stepped out of an NPR stream or an American Songwriter interview, but I guess she’s probably just been practicing it all from a room in Hebden Bridge or something. Her music is slight and gorgeous, if you were wondering: she writes barbone songs that could subsist on strums and singing alone, but she flourishes the heartbreak and humility with booming piano chords, momentary lapses of stringwork and the occasional backstage vocal harmony.
‘Golden Eagle’ is one of those folk records that invites its setting to be in the band. Recorded in a Newcastle studio, the production sounds like it’s in service of a huge blank canvas of a building with little more than the instruments, its musician and a total lack of central heating. Ok, maybe I’m projecting, but when a second vocalist joins Macve on a song like “The Corner of My Mind”, they sound like they could be half a mile across the room from her. The guitar twang sounds like a signal shifting through the air. At other times, the sound is cosy and full-bodied, as on “Heartbreak Blues”, where wonderfully clean guitars mingle under a brushy drumbeat that makes me dream of a fort of pillows.
Macve is playing both from a traditional country book and one of modern upgrades -- she has Hank Williams’ passionately refined howl in her vocal delivery, but the kind of ominous soundscaping of First Aid Kit follows her round on songs like “All of It’s Glory”. She’s essentially made a record of Americana that could please anyone who follows the genre around. Her one failing? She hasn’t written a song about Greggs.
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