Marry Waterson & David A. Jaycock: Death Had Quicker Wings Than Love
One Little Indian – 29 September 2017
Originally a stop-gap project when brother Oliver Knight decided to take a break from music, Two Wolves, the debut album by Marry Waterson and Cornish guitar experimentalist David A. Jaycock (Big Eyes Family Players) was greeted with such positive critical and commercial response (not least two BBC2 Folk Awards nominations) that they decided to do another.
Yet again they’ve gathered an impressive collection of contributors, among them Kathryn Williams, Romeo Stodart (The Magic Numbers), John Parish (PJ Harvey) and producer Adrian Utley (Portishead, Patti Smith), to craft a dark veined set of folk songs that, inspired by personal experience, rework historical fables to explore the theme of feeling lost.
It’s Aesop who provides the springboard for the opening number, The Vain Jackdaw, a song about, well, vanity, the vocals recorded outside on the rooftop, Jaycock’s guitar intro giving way to Waterson’s stark unaccompanied voice.
There’s a fuller sound for the self-explanatory Lost (adjective), Jaycock’s arpeggios and strings providing Waterson’s backdrop before Utley’s electric guitar gives way to the title track, watery pastoral guitar and yet more strings (courtesy of Jaycock’s bowed guitar and Emma Smith’s violin and viola) accompanying a song inspired by local history. St Stephen’s Old Church in Robin Hood’s Bay to be precise which houses of one of the last remaining maiden’s crowns, a garland that was traditionally displayed in churches to commemorate women that had died virgins, the title deriving from the writings of Reverend John Wesley and reputedly carved on the gravestone of Mary Woodson who died on her way to be married at Beeley Church in 1785. As you might imagine, while undeniably pretty, it’s also a somewhat sombre number.
Romeo Stodart provides the acoustic guitar part for the spare and atmospheric Out Of Their Hearts, a number that underscores the album’s 60s folk influences, leading onto the strikingly titled Gunshot Lips, Jaycock’s acoustic complemented by Utley’s electric guitar and harmonium in another minimal arrangement, the lyrics pertaining to how the narrator is constantly verbally abused by her lover.
Jaycock contributes New Love Song, providing both the airy guitar accompaniment and the deep harmonies on a number that, again nodding to the late 60s, oddly recalls early Incredible String Band.
The breathily sung Three Of Them is perhaps the gentlest and most winding melody here, almost like a musical box, that tranquillity spilling over into On The Second Tide, the modal quality of Waterson’s singing again conjuring Robin Williamson.
Musings on children leaving home and the musings on the mixed parental feelings it brings are at the core of Forgive Me, the direct, unmannered vocals here perhaps the most ‘traditionally’ folk sounding on the album while Jaycock provides another pastoral guitar arrangement coloured by high-pitched strings.
It ends with the only song to break the four-minute mark and also the most uptempo, Small Ways and Slowly (the video was premiered on Folk Radio UK), fleshed out with John Parish’s percussion and, building towards electric guitar, a melody that, at times, summons thoughts of Sandy Denny while the lyrics address how language often fails us when attempting to be articulate thoughts and feelings.
Despite having tried to get through the review without raising the inevitable comparison to her mother, Lal Waterson, the vocal DNA is impossible to ignore; however, this album is firm evidence that while the apple may not have fallen far from the tree, it has grown into very much its own orchard, one made all the richer by her partnership with David A. Jaycock. This is one to treasure.
Order Death Had Quicker Wings Than Love here: https://OLI.lnk.to/DHQWTLYT
Upcoming Dates: 30 September 2017 at Kings Place, London (more details here)