Paper Wings “Listen To The World Spin”

Free Dirt Records, 2024

Perfection. That’s it.

After a three year break from recording together, and on their third album, Emily Mann and Wila Frank, known together as Paper Wings, have placed an indelible mark on the modern folk old timey harmony duo landscape.   The duo met as teenagers at folk fiddle camps, but on ‘Listen To The World Spin‘  their songwriting is expressed through the combination of banjo and acoustic guitar.   The songs have a timeless feel to them, as if dragged up from some Appalachian well of song but the sensibilities are modern – and there’s a sense of almost semi-detached irony that rather than alienating the listener has the effect of pulling one into a closer circle.  It’s as if Emily Mann and Wila Frank are saying “we do know, really we do, that we aren’t living in the 19th century, but don’t these songs sound great!”  And it’s unarguable – they sound great, if one wanted to be picky one might say they sound superb.  The combination of melodies and the perfectly blended voices can’t help but please.

As to topics, well, what might one imagine is on the mind of touring banjo and guitar players?  ‘Airport‘ is a sad moment of parting “goodbye my love – I’m back at the airport again“, whilst the poignant ‘Ashby‘ is a plea for an escape from the hustle of the city – and hints at a troubled love: ‘I picked a thorny rose / I held it to me dearly / … / because I thought it mine,” a rose which fails to respond to the love lavished upon it.  And then there is the exquisite ‘Mad Thing‘ with it’s sparkling guitar lines and wishes for a start of a relationship with someone hardly known and little understood.  It’s a song that’s impossible to tire of.

Where do Paper Wings sit in the firmament of Americana?  Well, a Paper Wings themed festival would surely include the likes of Darlingside, and Pharis & Jason Romero and there’d be a good natured struggle for top spot with The Milk Carton Kids.  All sensible touchstones, but only because they could nestle comfortably against each other in a genre sorted Record Store – make no mistake Paper Wings have their own voice and it is, well, it’s own very special form of perfection.  This is an album that’ll be listened to all year – and way, way, way beyond.


About Jonathan Aird 2774 Articles
Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan's music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That's not much to ask, is it?
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david chalfen

No Depression review was similarly praising and it is such a glorious album to hear, each track. I thought of Mama’s Broke and House and Land. Hope they find a UK visit is viable.