Artful simplicity from the couple in the cottage next door.
Ninian Dunnett 2012
We don’t do next-door very well in pop journalism. If we’re celebrating the back streets of Liverpool, it’s probably because they’re the roads that once led to Shea Stadium. Which is a strange thing, because small-scale, local and intimate music can be just as affecting as anything you’ll hear at 50,000 decibels.
Trevor Moss and Hannah-Lou make a good case for a change. This is a married couple with a song about allotments and a history of playing in village halls at places like Dilton, Wiltshire (the parish councils take a bit of handling, apparently).
And actually, they have a whole other history, too, of record label showcases and support slots on high-profile tours with their 00s indie/bluegrass band Indigo Moss.
Leaving the conventional biz behind, though, they have pared their music down to a perfectly simple thing: two guitars and two voices. And what this cottage industry delivers is the kind of unpolished virtuosity that makes a tambourine sound like a technological intrusion.
Led by Hannah-Lou’s airy, plaintive soprano, the harmonies are as well drilled, syllable for syllable, as any 60s girl group. And with the strings strummed and finger-picked on restrained arrangements of sparky folk-pop melodies, it would take an icy heart not to warm just a little.
The duo’s third album is something of a holiday journal, recorded over 10 days on a four-track cassette recorder in a barn in rural France. Still, these are postcards from abroad that might get you resolving to give the Pays de la Loire a miss next year.
There’s a good dose of cloth-cap nostalgia, and plenty of pleasing visual imagery – as well as building up an archive of grassroots musicians recorded at folk club nights, the couple have ventured into some rather lovely homespun documentary filmmaking.
But there is also seriously dark reflection amongst the catchy tunes – making this a 35-minute album with soulful complications to its neighbourly spirit.