on 15 May 2009
I originally bought this record on the strength of some very enthusiastic newspaper reviews and a track included on the excellent `This is Navigator Records' sampler.
The album I guess would fall under either the `nu-folk' or `psychedelic-folk' genres but to pigeonhole the record is to do it a disservice. There is an awful lot going on throughout the album and some of it is pretty creepy. The majority of the tracks are sparse affairs with an acoustic arrangement underpinned by Mary's often unnerving witch like vocal. That is not to underplay the complexity of the pieces because much thought has clearly gone into some unusual time signatures and methods of instrument tuning.
Familiar touchstones are awfully hard to identify and the strongest comparison I can make is with James Yorkston from some of his `traditional' recording sessions like `Fearsome Fairytale lovers'. This is an outstanding debut album, oblique and original and is going to be a tough act to follow for this very promising talent.
on 15 July 2009
This is abstract art crafted beautifully and uniquely into music,forget any comparisons beacuse you won't find any.
This album is the stuff of sweet dreams and nightmares at the same time, enchanting, thought provoking, unnerving yet serene too.Grimms fairy tales come to mind.
Quite simply it is a tapestry of cleverly woven songs which produces an album you've never heard the likes of before but will want to hear more of for sure. Mary Hampton has the voice of a Nightingale, sweet yet mysterious. One of the best albums I have heard in ages, yet that depends on the listener. It's grabbed me anyway. Strange yet beautiful just like the finale about Florence Foster Jenkins, look her up on the web.
Folk music is alive and well thanks to Mary.
Look at the pictures on Mary Hampton's MySpace page and you'll see an unusual woman of uncertain age with a handsome, if not a pretty face; a little reminiscent of the younger Maggie Smith. Listen to her songs and you'll hear a voice that threatens to invoke the late Sandy Denny in all her keening, desperate glory. Read her lyrics, and you can discern the stripped and pitiless shades of Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath.
Yet despite these points of comparison that flit in and out of her art like moths to the flame, Mary Hampton is at heart a true original. Unlike fabled pre-war "opera singer" Florence Foster Jenkins whose chutzpah Hampton sweetly applauds in the album's final song, she has an unearthly talent to accompany her artistic courage and she is by no means afraid of experiment or exploration.
At first listen the songs seem gentle, at home within their folk flavourings and starkly simple arrangements, yet strange cruelties soon emerge: a stuffed dog, a lost doll, a skinned eel. Animals - dying stags, "sea-beast clouds" - stalk through every song and human emotion is visceral, never sentimental. Birth is heralded by "a strange scream in the high night", death comes to an island valley with "eyes all ablaze".
Hampton's vocal lines are not so much melodies as weather systems, swirling and twisting through a musical landscape populated not only by guitar and piano but by cello, wurlitzer, stamping and whistling, speech and snail shells. Some of the songs - like domestic epic Ballad Of The Talking Dog - tell stories as surreal as the Magritte print on the album cover. Others are content to suggest and evoke a singular atmosphere, as the tumbling piano which cascades through The Bell They Gave You suggests a carillon for a childbirth.
Forget the retro rehashes of divas like Amy Winehouse. This kind of talent, though rooted in the long history of the natural world, is truly new-minted.
on 20 December 2014
Mary Hampton's music has captured me in a way that no-one else's has for nigh on 25 years. The first song I heard was Because You're Young, the opener on this album; it was on the radio, I was drying up the dishes and felt compelled to stand stock still and listen intently until the very end. I was a bit perturbed to find that it was the first track here, thinking "it'll be all downhill after that". Never mind that: this is an absurdly good album. It's not for the faint hearted or the easily dissauded though; there is a woody, earthy darkness running through many of the songs. For example, The Bell They Gave You begins with Hampton's tremulous voice singing "The eel cries out before it is skinned, a strange scream in the high night, and everything begins..." against a sinister cello line. It is dark, unsettling and compelling. For several months I found myself drawn to putting My Mother's Children on even when I didn't particularly want to listen to it, as if there was some kind of magic at work. I wouldn't be surprised to discover that there is. Straight into the all-time top 5.