Eye-Pea [Release date 19.03.13]
The doomed romanticism and fragility of Nick Drake has a lot to answer for in term of contemporary folk music. His biographer Trevor Dann pointed to a foreboding and fatalism at the heart of his work and similar elements appear in ‘The Stone House’, a singer songwriter project by Kinver.
‘The Stone House’ is an indie folk album that places the emphasis on confessional material that fits the contemporary landscape of contemplative narratives. It stands out as a mature record with honest songs that nuance the poetic isolation of Leonard Cohen and embrace the meditative elements of Bon Iver, Ben Howard and even the emotive Americana of Samuel Mead’s Iron & Wine.
There’s a connection too, with the latter genre, as both the best Americana and alt. country songwriters are judged by the authenticity of their work, and it’s that sentiment that lies at the heart of this album.
Kinver’s songs draw the listener into an emotive world of dashed hopes – ‘From the Start’ - and the contrasting optimism of love songs like ‘Basket’. In between the two, there’s the real commercial potential of ‘The Lights’, with its catchy chorus, strong cello-led melody and whispered vocal, which is reminiscent of the pop sensibilities of Edwyn Collins.
The piano-led and shuffled brush strokes of ‘Turning to Night’ lead to a beautiful sung melody with real poetic presence and the closing ‘Halfway Home’ has a similar lyrical concern, as the narrator prevaricates: ‘I got weary only half way gone, but I turn my head and I’m halfway home’ .
‘Silent Void’ also seems to measure the emotional distance between longing and commitment: ‘But it’s right here in the silent void, between knowing you and not’. Of course I could be wrong, as occasional lyrical eclecticism obfuscates clarity on an album of interlinked songs, brought to life by a perfect combination of voice and instrumentation.
The name of the project comes from the village of Kinver in Stafford, known amongst other things for its sandstone ridge, ghost, spirits and witchcraft, while the album title is lifted from the name of the studio in which the album was recorded.
A blend of Ryan Adams style whispered vocals, nuanced tones and textured sounds feature a sonorous cello, an insistent acoustic guitar and intricate percussion, while the arrangements focus on feel, and moods that reflect lyrical meaning.
It’s an organic but meticulously recorded album, in which the quintet dig deep to colour the songs and the vocals perfectly evoke the emotive twist and turns of ten songs that seamlessly hang together and probably only lack an uplifting mid-point.
The lyrics owe their primacy to a singer songwriter who lays his feelings on the line with songs that slip from reflective first person to third person narratives. The lead single ‘The Lights’ is exceptional and aims for a Radio 2 play listing and the more up tempo ‘From the Start’ is not far behind, with its insistent Paul Simon styling.
‘The Stone House’ ebbs, flows and alternates between the reflective and the introspective. ‘10,000’ has a Stackridge style ‘oh no, oh no’ refrain and fleeting aaah’s, on a song that moves from reflection to pessimism on lines like: ‘You see it everyday hungry mouths without a say in their destiny’, before resignation moves to spiritual refection: ‘There is something brighter than the sun’. It’s a line further emphasised by a George Harrison style guitar line.
‘The Will to Dance’ is full of wistful restraint and sonorous accompaniment that embeds the expressive vocal in a warm arrangement, much as it does on the waltz like intro of ‘Turning to Night’. ‘Waste in Chains’ is an unflinching love song with an aching, overly deliberate whispered vocal full of pregnant pauses and yearning moments, while ‘Lonely Soul’ is almost a slice of Americana with distant echoing guitar notes.
‘The Stonehouse’ is an album with an emotional pull and lyrical depth, sung by a vocalist whose breathy intimate style is sometimes reminiscent of Colin Blunstone. Kinver is music straight from the heart. Such are the machinations of the current music biz that a project like this almost has to go underground to get noticed. It’s succinct, real and beautifully crafted indie folk and deserves a much wider audience. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
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