An artist who should be seen as a beacon for future folkies.
Nick Barraclough 2009-09-24
She’s in no hurry, Nancy Elizabeth, and sounds as though she has no need to impress. She talks, in her blurb, of writing this material while in rural parts, away from civilisation, where she was “really listening to the silence, as well as hearing conversations in a completely musical way – to the rhythm of the words”. It’s easy to think this pretentious, until you start listening. It works. It has space, acres of it; space lesser artists would be compelled to fill.
This is a sincere and genuine album of songs devoid of contrivance. The listener almost gets a feeling of illicitly listening in on a private performance. It’s that rare collection where you feel she’d have written and sung and played them exactly that way even if they were never to be recorded, the mood a happily uncompromising one.
The use of her vocals is particularly clever, appearing in Bring on the Hurricane as an unexpected burst of heavy harmony and in Feet of Courage as a rhythmic backing track. As the lead singer, apparently fragile and not always with impeccable intonation, her voice will occasionally take you by surprise as it leaps like a kitten and lands perfectly on the note.
Her arrangements are as inspired as the songs themselves. Her use of repetition is wonderfully mesmerising, directing you to her lyrics – steamy ones, as it happens, in The Act, otherwise just two chords on an electric guitar and a bit of harmonica. But it’s all you need, really, when a song’s as good as this one.
Her instrumentation is also impressive. Most she plays herself – piano, guitar, glockenspiel and vibraphone – and while there’s nothing too fancy on show, everything is carried out with huge assurance.
With this sort of depth and maturity, if she resists the lure of the obscure and panders a little more to the common listener, Nancy Elizabeth should be seen as a beacon for future folkies.