This is an amazingly surefooted debut EP from Somerset singer Kitty MacFarlane. I could have said young Somerset singer, oh, I have now, but such is the maturity in her delivery that age is irrelevant.
The album opens with two unaccompanied verses of Wrecking Days which led me to wonder if the whole album was unaccompanied; it isn’t but I wouldn’t have minded if it were. The quality of Kitty’s singing, and delivery of the lyrics throughout the 5 songs is extraordinary. She has an uncanny ability to make use of her natural vibrato and to vary the volume of her delivery in such a way as to make listening a magically intimate experience.
Four of the songs are self-written and the fifth is the Tim Buckley classic Song To the Siren. I don’t know whether it was included to add extra quality but if so it is not needed. The quality in Kitty MacFarlane’s songwriting easily stands comparison and I am sure there were many more songs to choose from.
Living, as I do, on an Island in the middle of the atlantic I have a certain affinity with the sea and the sea shore. Wrecking Days captures it for me. The song celebrates the magic of the beachcomber, the unexpected finds, the connection with far off lands, ancient and modern: “Oh For the Wrecking Days Atlantic castaways, plastic and stone”.
The production and arrangement on this song, and all the others is faultless and at times inspired. The use of banjo as a foil to Kitty’s fingerpicked guitar works well and adds a measure of authenticity to the album keeping it firmly in the folk music camp. Jamie Francis is a superb banjo player and I look forward to hearing his solo album in the future. This song however features strummed guitar, bass and fiddle as well as the banjo and ends on a slightly rocky hypnotic chorus. The producer uses Kitty’s voice twice, not harmonised but adding breadth and warmth. Great start.
Bus Song is lovely. finger-picked guitar accompanying a beautiful little snapshot of a bus journey when Kitty was 16 (so say the notes). Granted I would need a much more powerful telescope to look that far back but her way with words absolutely captures the trip. However, there is a bit of a tease when she says “I wish you’d taken the 25B with me.” Who is she referring to? “I wanted to chat for a while, wanted to see you smile”.
Unrequited love? Best friend had a bad day?
There’s a great country feel to this song with some lap-steel to set the tone but definitely not to swamp. Sam Kelly really has done a brilliant job on the production.
Lamb… She composed Lamb as an extension of William Blake’s poem, with melodic nods to Tavener’s choral arrangement… . As a student of English Kitty has again pulled off her intent, with great guitar and cello and superb singing but I think I became besotted with the observational lyrics in the first two songs, and this is a very different style.
Tide and Time is back to the more familiar style; lovely guitar work behind some more quality singing. The production builds to a climax two thirds of the way through with banjo and guitar and suddenly a very full chorus with, I think, Kitty harmonising with herself. The sound fills the room until, just as suddenly the song ends with just solo guitar and voice. There are echoes of other female singers who have taken their songs out of the folk clubs and into the big world and it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if Kitty MacFarlane becomes a big name in the wider music world. While not inclined to compare her with any of her contemporaries I definitely detect subtle traces of Joni Mitchell in the use of her voice and guitar and in the way her melodies evolve, but really, she is a unique talent.
The final song on the EP, Song to The Siren, the arrangement is simple, finger picked guitar and vocal and it is only after a few listens that you realise it is electric guitar. It is a magical interpretation of a Buckley classic; maybe including it was the right decision after all!
What’s to say? Kitty MacFarlane has already worked with some notable names including Sean Lakeman. She is an inordinately accomplished musician. Her song lyrics could easily stand alone as poetry but then why would she do that when her ear for a melody is faultless?
My only disappointment with “Tide and Time” is that it is only 5 songs. Let’s hope the next one is gestating as I write.
Kitty MacFarlane is a major talent, and “Tide and Time” is a bit of a triumph.
Tide & Time is Out Now
Order direct from Kitty here: www.kittymacfarlane.com/
Upcoming Tour Dates
Jun 18 – David Hall Arts Centre, South Petherton
Jul 03 – Pebbles Tavern, Watchet
Jul 09 – The Dolphin, Wellington
Jul 10 – Halsway Manor, Taunton
Jul 29 – Sidmouth Folk Week, Sidmouth
Sep 09 – The King’s Head, Cirencester
Sep 12 – Castle, Kenilworth
Sep 14 – The Harrison, London
Photo Credit: Todd MacDonald