Marina Florence – Fly Beyond The Border
Self Released – 16 March 2018
This is Norwich-based singer-songwriter Marina Florence’s third album, the self-released follow-up to 2016’s This, That & The Other, a gathering together of reworkings of past singles and previously unavailable material that again serves to make you thankful she finally got round to committing her music to disc. Variously compared to the likes of Ketty Lester, Julie Gold, Patti Page and Dolly Parton, she also calls to mind Rita McNeill with her warm, emotionally-rich, velvety voice and understated country influences.
The album opens with a former Folkstock single Every Woman, a waltzing celebration of womankind that chimes perfectly with the zeitgeist, co-penned with Richard Pierce and featuring backing vocals from Cathryn Craig and Mark Jolley on fiddle, both of whom also lend their talents to the romantic nostalgia of the equally waltzing Two More People with Florance on mandolin.
One of six songs here co-written with Julie Fox Allen, originally appearing on the live Migration album, the studio version of the jaunty jogging backwoods folksy missing you themed I’m Okay features, along with Florance on harmonica and Jolley handling mandolin duties, the vocals of jazz cabaret singer-songwriter Kate Dimbleby.
Originally released on the Warm & Toasty Club EP, written by Florance and Allen (who sings backing vocals) after the pair spent time sharing memories at one of the Warm and Toasty Memory Afternoons held at retirement complexes on the Essex coast as part of the Arts & History project Coast To Coast, Sirens is a particularly lovely and haunting song that again celebrates the strength of women in often difficult circumstances.
Another previously unavailable track, A Coffee Shop Song is a completely solo effort, a harmonica and mandolin waltzer love song reminiscing about a first dance with the love of her life apparently.
First released in 2014 and featuring Ben Walker on dobro and guitar, the moodily arranged The Blue Lady is based on the life of May Alice Savidge who, having been told that it was to be razed to make way for a road, from 1969 and over the course of 23 years single-handedly carried the stones, beams and tiles of her 15th century medieval house from Ware, Hertfordshire, a hundred miles down the road to Wells-Next-The-Sea, Norfolk. It also comes with a remix of the instrumental version that highlights Walker’s superb classical acoustic guitar work.
Featuring Roland Carson on melodeon, Fisherman, an ode to “a man whose love was the ocean” dates back further to 2012 when it was originally part of the limited edition handmade illustrated artist’s book of copperplate etchings of the same name, subsequently released as a single the following year. This, in turn, is followed the recent single Yester Me, again featuring Chris Bullen on guitar, alongside Ben Smith on lead and Jolley on fiddle, an Appalachian-flavoured getting over heartbreak country number which, as with several tracks, has Florance on cajon and mandolin.
Another past single, charting a different musical mood, a duet with wonky pop singer and Warm and Toasty Club founder Johnno Casson, the refugee-themed 247 News has a bluesy Hispanic sway and lyrics that talk about how we become desensitised to the tragedies of strangers and look away.
Casson also produced and played everything except guitar on Sometimes, a rhythmically pulsing track that moves considerably out of her comfort zone to take in electronics, samples and beats as she sings “I don’t know what’s going on in my head.” He’s there too on the final cut, The Winter Wind, a terrific single from 2015, providing the hummed backing vocals and suitably icy spare piano notes on an atmospheric, almost Piaf-like number, which, raising a glass to Christmases past and Jolley providing evocative fiddle, has a similar Eastern European feel to the verse elements of Those Were the Days.
It’s unfortunate that her live appearances are few and far between these days, mostly around her Norfolk base, but she continues to write and record (indeed, she and Allen have been commissioned for the 2018 Warm and Toasty project) and you really should, as the notes on the sleeve says, take the time to get a cuppa, put up your feet and melt into her musical world.
Fly Beyond the Border is out now and can be ordered via Marina direct here: https://www.marinaflorance.com/shop