A long awaited second EP of original songs from Milton Keynes guitarist/singer Anna Hester, following up her four track release ‘In The Meantime’ from 2014. An entrancing live performer with just vocals and acoustic guitar; on these tracks her empathetic backing ensemble enhance her pure folk voice.
1. We Can Get Lost A mellow opener, the relaxed backing of the band is a foundation for a lyric celebrating the uplifting optimism of a promising new relationship. Anna’s vocal soars and floats along with some neat self-harmonies.
2. Have We Met A slow ballad, starting with the elegant line ‘…I found your tapestries there in my eyes…’ the listener is invited into a world of abstract melancholy, (creating a similar mood to ‘The Byrds’ on her previous EP, a song that when I first heard it I wrongly assumed it to be a folk standard, such was its timeless resonance). The lyric drifts towards disappointment and betrayal, with some clever musical nuances along the way. A sublime track, my favourite on the EP.
3. Watch The Clock The lead single from this collection, a highlight of her live set. On here Anna embraces an easy jazz/folk styling for a late night middle tempo song of questioning and hope. Combining the seventies instrumentation of ‘Solid Air’ era John Martyn and the lyrical yearning of Nick Drake this standout song is propelled by a loping, sensual double bass and echoing piano hauntingly moving in and out.
4. Towards Today A more conventional song structure with a catchy chorus line. The gentle vocal interweaves with sparkling acoustic guitar arpeggios and a cello counter melody. A subtle end to an EP of quality and richness.
Snowpoet join together elements of folk, jazz, ambient and of course poetry to produce a captivating fusion of sound. The writing and performing core of the band is singer Lauren Kinsella and instrumentalist Chris Hyson joined on this album by other talented acoustic players.
Opening track ‘The Therapist’ is a glistening series of guitar arpeggios with the soulful vocal of Lauren on a haunting journey where the melody never quite settles. Other instruments steal in and out and the overall effect is beguiling and mellow. Instrumental track two ‘Under The Tree’ has a ticking clock theme and paves the way for some shimmering string effects on the pastoral ‘Water Baby’ along with the piano figure constantly returning under the voice.
‘Love Again’ is a longer piece and probably my favourite track on the album, a jazzy late-night treat with a slightly up-tempo bass and a saxophone solo; like much of this album it is never too hurried. ‘Dear Someone’ is vocal only, you can imagine this one making an impact in a live context. ‘Snow’ is a measured, smooth ballad with a gorgeous vocal performance, ‘Two Of Cups’ (a tarot card that ‘…shows the beauty and power that is created when two become one…’) is a slow, evocative waltz that is reminiscent of a mid-period Van Morrison instrumental track.
And there are more special moments; the semi-spoken word of ‘It’s Already Better Than OK’ and the simple piano accompaniment to the free form ‘Another Step’, a short and powerful vignette that brings this impressive album to a satisfying end.
It is good to know that a bit of searching finds that the folk and roots scene in Cambridge extends far beyond the annual folk festival and includes events such as this triple showcase hosted in the intimate surroundings of J3, set out cabaret style with candle-lit tables creating a very friendly and supportive ambience.
Having established themselves in other bands, Yve, Clare and Lu are still deciding on a name but in the meantime play guitar and violin and on a night where harmony vocals featured strongly they did justice to some timeless songs, including a subtle version of the Bee Gees ‘To Love Somebody’. Original compositions too are promised in the future.
Trio Luna Falls instantly create a captivating sound; three acoustic guitars and vocals that gel with each other perfectly and reflect many years of sisters singing together. They play tracks from their EP and also cover versions including a spirited rendition of ‘The Irish Rover’. I think their own material is very strong; the haunting waltz ‘Gentle Lies’, the multi-layered tones of ‘Breakthrough’ and of course the impressive, award-winning ‘Falling To Pieces’, a favourite of mine from a recently reviewed compilation.
From acoustic folk the evening then went into pure country rock with SJ Mortimer & The Flying Pigs. SJ has a great voice and her original songs reflect more of the up-side of the genre; travelling on (‘Hit The Road’), celebration of love (‘Heart Beats Faster’) and with ‘American Dream’ the desire to make music in Nashville (where SJ actually recorded her album!). The combination of violin, guitars, banjo and beefed-up cajón with extra bass drum effect gave plenty of depth to the sound with SJ’s voice soaring effortlessly through it all.
There was a cover of the late Tom Petty’s ‘Free Fallin” and a rowdy ‘Fireball’ which is the title track to her new EP and a good excuse for a drinking game. With guest backing vocalists on the contemplative ‘Smokey Mountains’ we were treated to some emotional six part harmonies. The final encore was the glorious ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, (which always seems to make it sound a fine place to be?!), a fitting conclusion to a really good show.