Previous single and EP releases have earmarked Smoke Fairies as a band to keep an eye on, and here at long last is their debut long-player. It's been worth the wait.
The latest in a long line of contemporary artists pushing back the boundaries of traditional folk music, the Fairies conjure up a totally compelling mix of the musick of olde England with the swampy sounds of the Mississippi Delta. God knows how or why it works; but it does, and often spectacularly so.
The time they reportedly spent living and working in New Orleans is clearly evident, as is the influence of working with Jack White, never more so than on the stirring "Strange Moon Rising" which opens with a grungy blues motif that sounds like it's about to morph into a cover of the Raconteurs' "Carolina Drama". These girls can work an insistent riff through a song as effortlessly as if they'd lived their entire lives in the Deep South, "Devil In My Mind" and "Storm Song" being other strong examples.
When the blues inflexions are temporarily left aside, as on (paradoxically) "Morning Blues", the girls' insistently beautiful voices are given room to shine through, arguably the most striking two-part female harmonies since Kate and Anna McGarrigle.
Presumably with an eye on widening the fanbase and 'crossing over' to the mainstream, the major label production has smoothed off just a little of the Fairies' previous edginess. There's nothing here quite as dark, chilling or haunting as "Living With Ghosts" or "Frozen Heart", but no doubt about it this is still one very fine album.
An album for those long winter nights that lie ahead.