Monday, 11 August 2014

Various Artists - Femmes Fatales of Folk Folkstock Records

For a site known to occasionally champion female artists from the country, roots and Americana genre with probably a slight bias to performers pitching their wares from across the Atlantic, perhaps the time is right to focus on some home grown talent at the heart of the folk movement. While the leading lights get extensive column inches elsewhere, it is with great pleasure to present a collection of songwriters pursuing the endeavour of catching the glare of the radar. FEMMES FATALES OF FOLK contains ten tracks from nine artists and manages to capture a wide reaching flavour of what this cohort of talented ladies are capable of.

Under the guidance of the developing Folkstock Records team, each track makes its mark whether original or not and leaves a lasting impression with a desire to check out the artist. As you would expect in a diverse offering, different styles are accommodated to suit whether your desires are for a soothing, edgy, wispy, haunting, classical or impassioned sound. In some tracks the voice surpasses the song and vice a versa in others but whatever the merit, each artist deserves the spotlight they are getting through this release.

The gateway to coming across this album was catching and commenting upon Kelly Oliver’s set at Cambridge Folk Festival earlier this month. Her beautiful vocals resonated with high value and the Hertfordshire based songstress is the artist granted two tracks on this album. There is a slight contrast in her traditional style delivery of the original folk tale ‘The Witch of Walkern’ and her stunning cover of the Dougie MacLean standard ‘Caledonia’. It is ironic that this song has now been reviewed twice in the last month with the Ward Thomas version matching up well against Kelly’s charming effort.

While Kelly acted as the conductive artist in discovering this collection, the find could quite easily be the passionate protest message evoking tones of Marina Florance. With all the traits of those who have successfully ploughed this furrow in the past, ‘The Path He Chose’ is a stark reminder that a century on from the outbreak of the Great War, there are still not so great consequences from conflict.

FEMMES FATALES OF FOLK has introduced me to the music of a name familiar on social media but undiscovered to date. ‘Wise Words’ is a beautifully sung soothing song from Minnie Birch with a gentle acoustic background supporting a near pristine attempt to deliver a composition strong on melody and graceful upon reception. ’45 Fever’ by Zoe Wren is a more upbeat effort but another succeeding in hooking in your aural senses. Having listened to a fair amount of Canadian folk music recently this style has been successfully interpreted across the Atlantic divide in equal quality measure.

Kelly Oliver
The haunting vibes of the cello-supported ‘Here’s Tom With The Weather’ sees Roxanne de Bastion add a slight edge to her crystal vocals, while Kaity Rae has a more down to earth voice which replaces range with a warm connective feel on the aching ‘It Is’. There are hints of piercing aggression to the sound of Fay Brotherhood’s ‘Blue Spiral Dreams’ which springs from the record with an alluring effect and is in contrast to the more level sided offering from Helen Chinn with ‘Second Chance’ being an apt title to a song perhaps needing multiple listens. The final track sees her Russian roots influential in Daria Kulesh delivering the song ‘Fake Wonderland’ within a classical framework no doubt to the appreciation of traditionalists.

Apart from showcasing some excellent talent, the entity of FEMME FATALES OF FOLK is the redeeming feature and presenting opportunity in a format that has the potential to engage across the roots spectrum. Try before you buy will whet your appetite but cherry pick only when further pursuing artists after adding the whole of FEMMES FATALES OF FOLK to your collection. 

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