In 2007 Anna and Harvey Elias moved from Yorkshire to a rural setting in the English Midlands. Since undertaking this move, the couple have been influenced by both the music and the ethos they discovered in the local folk scene. These influences have been brought to light in their debut album release as Anna Elias and the Forlorn Hope – Valleys In The Flatlands.
Anna Elias received some high praise for previous work in Bodixa, and there was a previous album release as Star*Bodixa, so this CD merits careful attention.
The album has a pleasant, chilled air about it, and undoubtedly more folk influences than the American styling that prevailed in songs produced as Bodixa. Anna’s soft vocal style captivates from the first note, washing over the listener in gentle, seductive waves. Backing and harmonies are carefully and effectively arranged, with lead vocal and harmonies well matched and finely balanced. There’s even the inclusion of the Southwell Minster Choir, which could seem excessive in some contexts, but fits well with the overall expansive sound.
The lyrical content and songwriting style of the album varies. The approach meanders from breathy chills and shanty snatches, through pastoral celebrations, to distinctly poppy beats. So those earlier excursions into the world of Americana and the world of Indie-Pop haven’t been neglected altogether. Lyrically there’s strong imagery and some promising concepts. There are, however, times when the songwriting seems rushed or unpolished and lacks the maturity some listeners might expect.
Other than the vocal content, however, the real strength of this album lies in the instrumentation. Gentle, melodic guitar work, enlivening concertina and stirring cello combine in varying measures to provide a soothing backdrop to the vocals. The occasional rise in tempo is provided by a pleasing, lively melodeon and a more percussive guitar. In producing the album, Ich Mowatt (credits include Ruth Notman’s Threads) provides a rich sound, striving to achieve an approach that compliments the sometimes polar influences behind the music.
There’s a lot on this release to enjoy, and a lot for the artists to be proud of. At times the style may appeal more to those looking for a pleasant musical backdrop, than a thought provoking collection of songs. I’d be very interested to experience these songs in a live setting, and will be on the look-out for an opportunity to do just that.
So, a debut album for The Forlorn Hope, but after more than 10 years of writing, performing and recording, have Anna and Harvey Elias found a voice in Valleys In The Flatlands that will take them to a wider audience?