Brigid Mae Power – The Ones You Keep Close
Oscarson – 15 April 12017
Irish singer/songwriter Brigid Mae Power’s last record, an eponymous full-length album (reviewed here), was released on the Tompkins Square label around the middle of last year, and swiftly proved a haunting, if at times elusive and enigmatic listening experience that has repaid a considerable number of repeat plays.
Brigid’s latest record, The Ones You Keep Close, is a six-track EP which consists of a collection of older songs, newly recorded during last summer as the last session by fellow-songwriter Peter Broderick in his Woods, Oregon-based studio The Sparkle. The majority of the tracks were recorded live, involving (according to the accompanying liner notes) just Brigid singing and playing guitar with Peter on drums and violin and David Allred on upright bass and trumpet. The sonic soundscape is at the same time rich and sparse, close-up yet reverberant, with each element within the texture made to count and very telling.
Perhaps the most obviously folk-accessible (and immediately so) track here is an expansive yet relaxed seven-minute rendition of the traditional song As I Roved Out, where Brigid’s sean-nós-inflected singing is couched in a musical arrangement which manages to sound both traditional (in terms of instrumentation) and contemporary (in terms of overall ambience). Even better in my book, though, is the ensuing I Told You The Truth, an achingly intimate piano-backed number, with the instrument’s clangorous sustain-pedalled resonances echoing the vocal melody line before the introduction of a gorgeous string arrangement. This is followed by Heart Pinch, another mini-epic that builds its tension from an ambient drone and limpid guitar arpeggios before the onset of Brigid’s keening voice and its intense lyric of desperation. Closing track We Are Quiet Now is an anxious, conversely, restless affair intoned to late-night brushed snare and uneasy minor chords offering little in the way of consolation. After this song plays the disc out, it makes sense to return to the start, and perhaps only then do the opening track (the brief, wordless Shut) and its successor I Don’t Know How To Do This Naturally, take on any kind of logic, the latter now convincing with its woozily reverberant opaque fuzzy guitar and florid flute embellishments.
The Ones You Keep Close is an entirely fitting companion to Brigid’s earlier album – once you’ve fallen under her spell, it’s certainly one to keep close!
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