After an absence of 10 years, Elle Osborne is back with her second full-length album So Slowly Slowly Got She Up. The album features a top supporting cast including Alasdair Roberts, Cath and Phil Tyler and Alex Neilson of Trembling Bells.
The album which consists mainly of traditional songs has a timeless authenticity, those strands of time that connect Elle to the folk singers she was raised amongst on the North Sea Coast of Lincolnshire feel very much alive as she conjures up ghost-like memories and pays homage to them. Barry Dransfield who encouraged Elle to accompany herself on fiddle from a young age describes it as
a delicately compelling recording combining subtle rootsy touches with an easy and natural originality.
After the release of her critically acclaimed debut album Testimony in 2000 she began to tour extensively as well as creating pieces for choreography and sound installations for permanent exhibition (including one housed at the National Fishing Heritage Museum in Grimsby). She was involved in a serious car accident in 2007 that meant she was unable to performa again until 2009; first collaborating with Alasdair Roberts, also performing with James Yorkston and Spiers & Boden and sharing stages with Cath and Phil Tyler and King Creosote.
So Slowly Slowly Got She Up is an epiphany not just in Elle’s career but in British folk music. It is by far one of the most beautiful re-interpretations of traditional folksong I have heard in a long time. Her choice in supporting artists is very visible throughout the album, from Alasdair Roberts signature guitar playing on the opening Bonnie George Campbell to the wonderful harmonies of Cath and phil Tyler on My Coffin Shall be Black.
The authenticity in her music is not just stylistic but it reflects the original feeling and intent of the song, a natural human connection that brings the songs alive. The haunting opening drone on Dalesman’s Litany creates a very dark and forlorn landscape through which Alex Nielsons free styled percussion and rythmn echo off the surrounding hills, Elle’s haunting fiddle joins in this soundscape to create one of the most authentic atmospheres…
The lyrics in this song had a windswept feel about them, to me – bleak and desperate, but also dignified and hopeful. I like those contrasts in music: visceral and tender, wild and delicate. Alex Neilson picked up on these qualities in his drumming (it’s why I wanted to work with him – the musicality and emotion of his playing). I like how the drones and electronic samples also contrast/complement the acoustic instruments too – and pick up the tension of the song’s theme.
Three Score and Ten is a song I first heard on Topic by The Watersons…this version is sympathetic to their style of singing and the huge chorus made the hairs on my neck stand on end! Beautiful!
This song is important to me because it’s about where I’m from – geographically and ancestrally – my dad’s family were fishing people from the North Sea coast who settled in Grimsby in the 1800s. Also, the Watersons, especially Mike Waterson, figure huge in my early music memory: their voices are as familiar to me as my own parents’. Late night singing sessions (when I really should have been asleep) is where I learnt to sing. This is my small homage to them.
The album feels like a tribute in many ways, a homage to the singers whom she grew up with as well those that have inspired her over the years such as Peter Bellamy who she learnt Fair Annie from:
I chose this song for three reasons:
– it’s not difficult to identify with the desolation and betrayal of Annie, by the man she thought was her lover – she could be forgiven for such thinking, given he’d fathered seven kids with her – but commitment phobia was evidently an issue even in ancient times; as was sisterly vengeance.
– Pete Bellamy. Even as a startled 9 year-old – when I first remember seeing him play – I was aware of him doing something profound and special to my sense of music and individuality.
– I love big auld ballads.
I mentioned earlier that Elle was encouraged to play fiddle when singing by Barry Dransfield so she couldn’t possibly leave him out. The Handsome Meadow Boy takes care of this…as Elle makes very clear, she included it becasue:
..to me, Barry Dransfield is the Keith Richards of English folk music.
James Yorkston has this to say about the new album:
I asked Elle to play a show with me back in 2003 after I heard her amazing debut album Testimony … I’ve kept in touch with her ever since; collaborating on the odd track, meeting up at festivals and such. Then, recently, she sent me her new album.. I was amazed. The singing, the arrangements, the atmosphere… It’s my album of the year so far..
I’m in complete agreement with James Yorkston, it’s our Album of the Year so far as well! Soul stirring, Magnificent and Beautiful!
The album is released on a great little label called Folk Police Recordings. You can but it here!