A much-anticipated debut album that lives well up to expectations.
There is just something about traditionally played and sung folk music that more complex albums can’t begin to match. When the voice is as good as Katherine Priddy’s then you can understand the buzz that the music press has built up around her. Names like Tom Robinson and Richard Thompson have been queuing up to sing her praises, heaping some fairly hefty weight onto her debut album.
Priddy sets out her stall with the first song ‘Indigo’. She says in her blog that this song was written when she was 16 or 17. The layered vocals add to the ethereal feel that runs through this and several of the other songs here. ‘Wolf’, the song that started the buzz in 2018 is next and you can see what attracted Richard Thompson to it. It has a certain Thompson-esque quality to it. Her influences seem to be drawn from John Martyn, Nick Drake, as well as Thompson himself. She would have fit right into Island’s folk roster in about 1975. This isn’t to suggest the album sounds dated, more that it has the timeless quality that those artists have.
‘Icarus’ a delicate guitar and fiddle song is followed by ‘Eurydice’ a brooding piece with the biggest arrangement on the album, electric guitar, drums and bass threatening to overwhelm Priddy’s voice. She says that this song is her favourite on the album, and it’s hard to disagree.
It comes as a surprise to find that the album was recorded in her native Birmingham. The sound is at times, Celtic, at others North East England, but always rooted in the folk traditions. ‘Letters From a Travelling Man’ has an upbeat mandolin and fiddle to push it along and could easily have come from Ireland, or Scotland. As could ‘The Isle of Eigg’ which takes you straight to the Hebrides. Priddy’s voice works in nearly any setting. Album closer ‘The Summer Has Flown’ builds from a simple voice to include pipes, strings and fades back to a guitar and voice before those fade as well to leave just a blackbird’s song.
Does the album live up to the buzz? Yes, it does on the strength of the songs, and Priddy’s exceptional voice. Many of the songs here were written in her teens and early twenties, and it will be interesting to see where her songwriting has gone since then, in time. ‘The Eternal Rocks Beneath’ will do very well for now.