Laura J. Martin hails from Liverpool and her debut album 'The Hangman Tree'
is a quirky affair. Her idiosyncratic voice will not be to everyone's taste;
fragile and chirpy and given to much leaping and diving, it might well have
sprung fully-formed out of a parallel elfin world half-hidden from our own.
Her songwriting style, too, is unafraid to plow a singular furrow, somewhere
between 60's psychedelic folk noodlings and a treasured childhood picture book.
Ms Martin is a story-teller at heart and there are sixteen tales to absorb here.
Her predilection for acoustic arrangements are chock-full of prickly rhythms,
plinkety-plockety banjos, stuttering flutes and staccato strings. Although
she shares a narrow bed with Joanna Newsom Ms Martin's compositions are far
more economical in structure. They get to the point quickly and do not overstay
their welcome. The lovely 'Elsie' and 'Mr Lam', for example, are both brief
instrumental punctuation marks coming in to land at less than a minute each.
Compositions of particular note are 'Dark Horse' with its multi-layered flutes
and whistles; the ersatz-Elizabethan shenanigans of 'Salamander' (a duet with
Euros Childs); 'Tom' with its delightful stop/start mandolin and handclaps and
the jaunty country-tinged musical box melody of 'Silent Maria'. There's the odd
twee moment which is a tad difficult to swallow ('Sleepwalker' comes perilously
close to that edge) but all-in-all the album is a magical and engaging journey.
Songs for listeners with a child still in their eyes.