Top critical review
5 people found this helpful
Beautiful return from former Espers vocalist
on 30 October 2011
Meg Baird came to prominence as part of the American alt-folk band Espers with which she provided beautiful, rich vocals against an often edgy and at times weird-for-the-sake-of-being-weird set of compositions which hankered after the likes of Devendra Banhart, Vashti Bunyan and Bert Jansch. It's only mildly surprising then that Baird's more recent projects have shifted their attention to the eastern side of the Atlantic Ocean with a very English and quite traditional folk sound; more Sandy Denny than Joni Mitchell that belied her American roots.
On this album Baird makes slight references to her roots in the United States through the use of pedal steel as a backing instrument on several of the tracks and through a few vocal and songwriting similarities to Jon Mitchell but overwhelmingly the impression is of a singer rooted in English folk. Baird's last album, a collaboration with Sharron Kraus and Helena Espval (the beautiful "Leaves From Off The Tree") explored the English folk canon through arrangements of traditional songs whereas on this album the majority of songs are originals, a notable exception being the somewhat obscure cover of the House of Love's "The Beatles and The Stones" - a not altogether successful venture.
The album is beautifully recorded with Baird's guitar and vocals right at the front of the mix. The mostly fingerpicked guitar is nicely played without ever being spectacular but the vocals seem to have a richness we haven't previously heard from Baird. The overall effect is dreamily beautiful although there is a tendency for the songs, without the variety of instrumentation or changes in tempo of her previous work to blend into one with this listener wondering whether the CD player had accidentally been switched to repeat on a couple of occasions.
A good album without ever being spectacular and it suffers from a certain sameness which could have been remedied with a couple of faster (or slower) numbers in amongst the mid-paced pieces. There is surely more and better to come from Baird and if she can maintain this level of performance it will be worth waiting for.