Ellen Mary McGee
The Crescent Sun •••
The Crescent Sun is the debut solo album from Nottingham-raised Ellen Mary McGee, former vocalist and founder member of psychedelic folk-rock collective Saint Joan. A short collection of ten tracks weighing in at just over half an hour, it’s nevertheless an intense experience that draws on McGee’s Irish and Romany gypsy descent in the form of sparse Celtic-tinged folk. While her work with Saint Joan was fully fleshed out with five musicians, The Crescent Sun is much more stripped back. Apart from a short blast of harmonica on ‘Theseus’, the instrumentation is pretty much entirely stringed. Without even the barest of percussion the gentle pace is constant, the variation coming through largely in the myriad of tools McGee employs, from the banjo to the dulcimer via the zither. Her voice suits the mood, sweet but raspish, with glimpses of pain coming through. With lyrics that are richly literate and full of imagery (as is often the case with superior folk music), she rises to the challenge and inhabits the roles of her characters very believably – something that in these dark songs must have been rather tortuous to do.
Filed under: album, review | Tags: 2009, ben urdang, krista muir, lederhosen lucil, music
Accidental Railway •••½
Indica Records Inc.
Inspired by her tours of North America and Europe under the guise of keyboard-wielding Germanic character Lederhosen Lucil, Krista Muir has shed that alter ego and released this impressive debut album under her own name. Accidental Railway was recorded back in her native Canada, specifically in Montreal, that zeitgeist city where you can’t leave the house without burning yourself on some musical hot potato, and Muir herself has links to the likes of The Besnard Lakes and Stars. And while she recently trekked to the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, to show off her first 16-mm short film, it would seem she thinks that now is the time for us Brits to be exposed to her work.
Filed under: album, review | Tags: 2009, ben urdang, lhasa, lhasa de sela, music
Warner Classics & Jazz
Mexican American, but resident of Montreal, Lhasa de Sela has returned to the fold with this, her self-titled third album, after a customary lengthy gap (it’s been six full years since her mighty breakthrough The Living Road). Perhaps slightly eschewing her mixed heritage and forgoing the gypsy leanings that cropped up in her previous work, this album is sung entirely in English, and is a melancholy, soulful affair. She paints a captivating landscape of love, loss and heartbreak from the outset, but has taken on a more stripped-back sound, with many of the tracks having minimal instrumentation to compliment her signature smooth vocal style.
Filed under: album, review | Tags: 2009, amit chadda, anja mccloskey, ben urdang, blue giant, charlene soraia, charlotte richardson andrews, corin tucker, josephine oniyama, kid you'll move mountains, laleh, mia boyle, music, mv and ee, nancy wallace, pilori, pocahaunted, shrag, simon christopher, the golden road, viva voce
February already!? Yikes. Here are 11 releases we didn’t get time to review in full last month…
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Target Heart EP •
Blue Giant, a supposed Portland ‘supergroup’, toured with The Shins in 2007 and consists of members of The Decemberists, Swords and, principally, Viva Voce’s songwriting and marital team of Kevin and Anita Robinson. How then did they end up sounding so drab? Target Heart, their debut EP, is disappointingly full of blandly unimpressive Americana that would doubtless serve well as background catalogue music for a roadtrip movie, or better still a roadtrip scene in ‘Gilmore Girls’, but is otherwise limp and generic. Even a duet between Kevin Robinson and Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker flounders without discernable purpose. If you like Animal Liberation Orchestra or Jack Johnson you might like this, it’s the same kind of inoffensive rural rock, seasoned with a mild Southern flavour. With four of the EP’s six songs coming in at less than the time it takes to soft boil an egg, the only time it really hits the mark is after 19 minutes when, blessedly, it ends. Phew.
UK release date: 19/01/09; www.myspace.com/bluegiantland