5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Moving, deep evocation of the sea and shore,
This review is from: Ashore (MP3 Download)
I always wait for a new album from June with intense anticipation and high expectations. She hasn't disappointed with this haunting album. The opening track, "Finisterre" is just over 6 minutes of June's wonderful rich voice weaving images of the space between sea and land. There are no hard edges or intrusive notes here. The song comes back to me in quiet moments and I'm driven to hear again June's mystical evocation of somewhere just out of sight, off the edge of the world.
"The Bleacher Lassie of Kelvinhaugh" is a simple, unaccompanied ballad where June's vocal technique and quality of storytelling carries the listener entranced through the tale. Huw Warren's perfect trickling piano notes introduce the next track "The grey funnel line" and the spell continues unbroken. June's singing is exquisite and as usual, I was so drawn into the song that only on reflection do I actually stop to marvel at her range of sweetness between top notes and her deep, caramel bathing tone in the alto range. "Le Vingt-Cinquieme du Mois D'Octobre" is a playful, dancing voyage of sound, showcasing June's ease in delivering delightful music in any language and tradition.
Elvis Costello's "Shipbuilding" doesn't seem a likely choice, other than for its sea theme, on a superficial glance at the track listing. I have loved Elvis Costello's own rendition, as well as Robert Wyatt's splendid interpretation. June's not only stands comparison, but adds a new element of poignant wisdom to her interpretation that is moving indeed. Her choices and bold risks are a delight and a triumph here.
"Jamaica" is a track of simple instrumental from Andy Cutting's accordion, Tim Harries' bass and Mark Emerson's violin, but does much more than act as a "bridge" between June's vocal tracks, such is the sensitivity with which this themed album is produced.
"The Great Selkie of Sule Skerry", a ballad about a mythical half-seal child is delivered with June's spare, hypnotic storytelling, including a spoken section in her beautiful diction that flows seamlessly into the song as only a true troubadour in the timeless tradition could achieve.
"Winter Comes in/Vidlin Voe" has a lighter, perhaps more hopeful tone that is a subtle change of texture once again, that keeps this album unified but so varied from track to track. Themes associated with the sea, such as death, loss, separation and the bleakness of conflict are never far away, but the heart can still dance on the edge of the waves here!
"The Oggie Man" is ushered in with Huw Warren's piano and June tells the tale of the Oggie man in the best tradition of personal stories set against real life situations and the colours smudging the background with the "rain softly falling". A story of love, like so many songs in the folk tradition, but with eternity and the elements giving it all a timeless, haunting quality that June conveys so matchlessly.
"I'll go and enlist for a sailor" is another wonderful instrumental where, for me, the hiccupping clicks of Andy Cutting's diatonic accordion are charming and skippingly delicious! What a perfect team on this album, and what a perfect accompaniment these artists are for one another.
"The Brean Lament", a sweet piano ballad creeps in next, and here the title "Ashore" is heard at the start, to ground us before June takes us onto the hinterlands of deep emotion, bereavment and connection with nature. Tim Harries' bass ushers in another spoken section from June, explaining the factual subject matter of the song, concerning the sailors' burial ground on the shoreline where their boots are buried below the tide. This helps to make the song itself all the more meaningful while remaining ephemeral and wistfully grief-tinged.
The dancing beat of the penultimate track "Le petit navire", sung in French, gives rein to June's gracious humour as in spite of the upbeat nature of the tune, the words are actually dealing with cannibal activity not unknown at sea!
The final track, which always comes too soon (thank goodness for iPods and shuffle mode and "Repeat all"!) is "Across the Wide Ocean". It seems to wander in and out of keys and rhythms, restless as the sea itself, moving up and down the estuary and shore like the tide, with a pattern not easy to trace as you watch from ashore.
This is among the loveliest of June's many glorious albums, and will surely delight long term fans like myself, and act as an introduction to her genius to others who will be lucky and blessed to discover her through these beautiful songs for the first time.