Following their appearance together in 2007 at the Royal Albert Hall in London, when they delivered one of their mother Lal’s most famous songs Fine Horseman, there has been much expectation on any future project that siblings Marry Waterson and Oliver Knight would deliver. The Days That Shaped Me is the result of nearly four years musical collaboration but is ultimately the result of a lifetime of experience and a fine work it is too.
The opener, Father Us, co-written by Kathryn Williams, with its beautifully gentle melody and melancholic harmonies perfectly sets the scene for an atmospheric and richly subdued album which promises much and confidently delivers. Revoiced is a dark, angry affair complete with visceral poetry by Marry and some moody guitar by Oliver. Curse the Day, on the other hand, distils traditional folk melodies whilst translating the barbed subject of PMT as an almost pagan experience. Oliver’s rock roots are also evident in the bristling guitar of Sleeping Flame.
The bittersweet Windy Day, along with the opener, is one of the album’s highlights; perfectly accompanied by the soft swing of Reuben Taylor’s piano. Taylor returns to provide an almost bluesy vibe to the charming Run to Catch a Kiss.
It is impossible to avoid comparing Marry to her mother and throughout the album the spirit of Lal is keenly felt, especially in the lyrics and subject of Angels Sing, but it is credit to the duo who manage to deliver a personal and unique work which reveals shades of their family’s ancestry rather than outright debt.
Guests on the album include Eliza Carthy, Marry and Oliver’s cousin, who provides fiddle and lead vocal – most notably on the sharply fragile The Loosened Arrow – and James Yorkston, who co-wrote and duets with Marry on the playful wordplay of Yolk Yellow Legged. Kathryn Williams returns for the album’s closure, Secret Smile, a nostalgic song about childhood and whispered memories.
Accompaniment on the album is kept to a minimum, often it is only Oliver’s guitar and Marry’s voice that contributes to the tracks. This bare honesty is typical of the Watersons’ generally and much welcome here it is too, revealing as it does, Marry’s finely textured voice and Oliver’s perfectly judged guitar.
The Days That Shaped Me is an enthralling addition to the Waterson family’s prodigious output and firmly places Marry and Oliver as vital and original contributors to their heritage. Richly layered, its poetic atmosphere, haunting melodies and understated accompaniment colour the album with an entirely timeless quality. A beautifully subtle work and one to look out for.
Amazon UK: The Days That Shaped Me