It was back in the summer of 2014 that Said the Maiden released an already very assured debut album A Curious Tale – since which time the Hertfordshire-founded female trio (comprising Hannah Elizabeth, Jess Distill and Kathy Pilkinton) has, on the evidence of this new EP Of Maids And Mariners, gained even more confidence in the unashamed creative juxtaposing of different kinds of material, taking it by the scruff of the neck and making it truly their own. For, quite in the manner of the “traditional” pop EP, one might say, Of Maids And Mariners contrives to cover all bases.
It starts out with a foot-stomping fiddle-driven slice of folk tradition (The Soldier And The Maid), then turns tack for some country gold in the form of Dolly Parton’s Jolene, the girls’ heartfelt, thought-through-meaningful account of which just has to rank among the finest of the myriad of covers of this rather underestimated (indeed maligned) song, where the verse, tellingly rendered in Said The Maiden’s now-trademark prescient a cappella harmonies, is cemented by the chorus exhortation primitively backed by drum and handclaps. A masterstroke of reinterpretation, and no mistake.
This EP is a game of two halves, in that the first pair of tracks was recorded in the studio with Megson’s Stu Hanna at the helm (he also plays guitar and mandola on the opening number), while the final two tracks were recorded live at a gig last October at Said The Maiden’s home-base (Redbourn) Folk Club complete with some excellent, enthusiastic chorus participation. The latter pair of tracks shows just what a fantastic live presence the girls have, exuding a tangible, electric energy on highly contrasting material. First there’s a superb example of contemporary writing in-the-tradition, Paul & Liz Davenport’s epic, haunting shoreline ballad Spring Tide Rising, which in Said The Maiden’s hands receives a wonderfully sparsely scored account, complete with eerie, chilling harmonies and seriously pindrop in its intensity. The lusty original composition Polly Can You Swim? (which sounds kinda-traditional too!) sports a rousing, pounding drum-and-tambourine rhythm and makes for a rip-roaring finale to the EP. In summary, this new EP clearly finds Said The Maiden coming of age, proudly displaying their great taste in covers (not least because two out of the four songs happen also to be in my own repertoire!) and their uncanny aptitude for getting the deepest and best out of their chosen material.
Of Maids and Mariners is out now and available via their website: www.saidthemaiden.co.uk
Photo Credit: Elly Lucas