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Jackie Oates Saturnine Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Album four from the young folk performer, confirming her pack-leading position.

Sid Smith 2011

With the folk firmament currently filled by several 20-something rising stars, there’s a danger that with so many poignant ballads, jolly jigs and all manner of rousing, rootsy revelry assailing (and even wassailing) the ear, the casual listener is spoilt for choice when it comes to gifted performers.

Happily, Jackie Oates continues to stand out from the crowd with a sequence of beautifully judged solo records dating back to her eponymous debut of 2006. This fourth set edges her ahead of the competition just a little further, as she presents a time-travelogue collection of songs about Cornwall (mostly) which, despite a jauntiness in the tempo of many of the tunes, presents the West Country as a bleak, dangerous place to be.

Even as The Hills of Trencrom gently bubbles along, with its lilting instrumental melody percolating through layers of accordion, bouzouki and Oates’ five-string fiddle, there’s a suspicion that even with the absence of a lyric, the body count is probably rising just out of sight. This doomed or fated love which haunts much of the album benefits from Oates’ light-of-touch vocal though – while it hints at the mournful undertow pulling upon the songs’ subjects, it never falls beneath a sentimental wave. That balance between her voice and the sparse instrumentation which frames it represents the real triumph of Saturnine.

On Poor Murdered Woman, the dread reportage of the lyric shines amidst exquisitely disconsolate hand-bells icily tolling around the corpse, whilst Mike Cosgrave’s cascading piano animates the falling tears which Oates describes during a forlorn yet moving reading of The Trees They Are So High. Moments like this, which cast memorably shiver-inducing spells, are responsible for consolidating Oates’ position as a young folk artist well worthy of so much admirable acclaim.

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