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Milk White Sheets
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There are plenty who would (and indeed do) dine out on a Mercury Music Prize nomination to the point where Gillian McKeith appearing from behind a trifle wagging her bitter, spindly finger would seem a distinct probability, but the unerringly prolific Isobel Campbell didn't so much as take her coat off. We're talking an hors d'oeuvre at best, or a serving of tapas; we're too many works into an esteemed career for a starter metaphor to be useful. A matter of months after Ballad Of The Broken Seas, her textured collaboration with gravel-voiced US bluesman Mark Lanegan, and even less since it swept into the public consciousness with a Mercury endorsement, the next instalment in her increasingly mystical story tumbles effortlessly out of her.As the years go by Campbell seems intent on refining the nature of her creative output, like watching a flower time-lapse back to seed. We're a long distance now from the DIY orchestrations of former employers Belle & Sebastian. The aesthetics of this album are similar to the last, yet without the tarred gravity of Lanegan's input Milk White Sheets is almost weightless in its delicacy, almost pagan in its simplicity. "Loving Hannah" is testament, her dainty voice and her dainty voice alone chasing the breeze with a trad-folk momentum. "Are You Going To Leave Me" adds crude drum rumblings and Harmonium groans, and the album explores further embryonic relationships between cello, slide and plucked guitars, basic hypnotic beats and her slight fairy vocal. Dreamy like the Cocteau Twins setting up in the 16th Century. --James Berry
Top Customer Reviews
"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.
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.
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.Read more ›