on 20 December 2006
Wow...this is different. I'm not a big folk fan but as a huge fan of her earlier work, I couldn't not buy it. I'm so glad I did. What a voice.
"Are you going to leave me" is one of the most beautiful arrangements I've heard in a very long time.
What next for her next album? She may know but I for one,can't wait.
I came to Isobel Campell's work through her collaborations with Mark Lanegan. Having loved the three records they put out I decided to start looking into their solo work. I have not been disappointed, Campbell is a major talent who seem to effortlessly make albums of quite breathtakingly beautiful music.
Milkwhite sheets is one of the few albums I've bought where I've fallen instantly in love with it. It has an almost ethereal quality, with Campbell's voice floating just above the music. And what music! Beautiful acoustic melodies which put me very much in mind of John Renbourn's work.
Campbell is very sure of herself. She covers `Reynardine' (memorably recorded by Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention) and `Willow's Song' from the Wicker Man soundtrack, two tunes where you have to work incredibly hard to equal previous recordings. She rises to the challenge admirably, and manages to make each track her own. Especially `Willow's Song', which is perfectly suited to her style. The originals aren't half bad either.
All in all this is a beautiful album of lilting Scottish folk music. I love it, and think that you will too.
on 28 October 2006
If you like Campbell's previous work, then this will be a welcome addition to your collection. It is a smart, neat work, that includes some songs off the promo cd "O Love is teasin'". Many works are traditional songs given the Campbell treatment, and what a delicious treatment it is. It has been described as 'low key', but don't be fooled into thinking this means it is weak, it is not. A very fine contribution indeed.
Milkwhite Sheets is the rapid follow up to the Mercury-nominated album Ballad of the Broken Seas which Isobel Campbell recorded with her band that includes former Soup Dragon Jim McCulloch (who also worked with Campbell on his own Green Peppers project) and the timeless Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, QOTSA, solo act, general growl for hire etc). During the period when Lanegan was completing his vocal contributions for Ballad...across the Atlantic, Campbell was in down time and set about recording Milkwhite Sheets.
This album isn't that close to Ballad, anyone expecting a similar record should probably look elsewhere, it is similar to Ballad in that it nods to more traditional music and has a gothic quality. Twisted gothic folk maybe? Campbell was exploring traditional folk, citing Shirley Collins, Jean Ritchie and Anne Briggs here, as well as nodding to the influence of the Harry Smith Folk Anthology in interviews. The cover version of Willow's Song from the soundtrack to the Wicker Man is another cue - though I feel a touch of the Velvets in the version here! Campbell is certainly moving away from the fey indie aspects you would associate with her former outfit The Gentle Waves and her tenure in Belle & Sebastian - there are no songs about 27 year old librarians with orthopaedic shoes and a dog-eared copy of Look Homeward Angel ! here!!!!
It is possible that Milkwhite Sheets will reveal itself with further listening, though having listened to it several times already I feel it's more like an e.p. - a few tracks seem slight and the instrumentals equally so - though both James and McCulloch's title track are close to the instrumental on Ballad of the Broken Seas.
Opener O Love is Teasin' is quite lovely, though Campbell's vocals are a little too girly sometimes - I can't say I'm mad on this genre, though love Vashti Bunyan's Just Another Diamond Day, which parts of this album reminds me of (Cachel Wood especially - probably too Vashti for its own good!). Hori Horo is quite charming and the acapella Loving Hannah is quite bold - though I was hoping for an effect like that on Bunyan's Window Over the Bay. The best is probably left for last with the epic Thursday's Child, which features former Smashing Pumpkin and underrated solo act James Iha on guitar - it feels like a folk Velvet Underground and seems to be the most interesting track here. It probably could have appeared on the Lanegan-collaboration and I think is the kind of thing Campbell should pursue on her next record. There's even a charming brief hidden track that might be called Goodnight...
Milkwhite Sheets isn't bad, it's one of those nice night time records like Bavarian Tea Bread, Blacklisted, Hips & Makers & So Tonight That I Might See - but set against recent releases in similar climes by Espers, Joanna Newsom, Nina Nastasia & Laura Veirs it pales somewhat (a bit like the last Beth Orton record). Nothing really offensive here, but lost in comparison to songs like Brad Haunts a Party & Only Skin. It will be interesting to see where Campbell goes next; personally I'd love to hear a live album from her recent tour with Lanegan & ban, since a lot of the songs improved in their live form!