Lively folk-jazz settings of the poems of Emily Bronte are quite the treat.
Sofie Livebrant lays the responsibility for this, her sixth album, at least in part at the feet of the Covid pandemic. You know the tale – no touring, stuck at home in lock-downs, looking for something to record. And yes, but Sofie Livebrant has previous form in this area – her second solo album was ‘Emily and I‘ which set poems of Emily Dickenson to music and she has also recorded compositions using the poems of Sylvia Plath and Charles Baudelaire. So it’s probably fair to say that this was an album that was going to happen at some point. Unsurprisingly the Swedish singer brings an English folk sensibility to bear on many of the eight songs that make up ‘Weep the Time Away‘, but this is not a stilted recreation of some imagined 19th century folksong setting nor yet an attempt as dialect. Instead it’s mostly a measured chamber folk sound that might bring Nick Drake to mind, or even more appropriately Vashti Bunyan who’s light floating vocals Sofie Livebrant does at times recall. Elsewhere a very modern backing gives a similar majesty to songs that is in a similar style to the approach of Sam Lee. These combinations of comparisons should be read as nothing less than a favourable assessment, because ‘Weep the Time Away‘ is an album that breathes new life into that dusty book of poetry on the shelf, and makes a very strong case for the vitality of the “lyrics” which truly sound as if written by a modern pen.
‘She Dried Her Tears‘, a line from which provides the album’s title, takes a metronomic approach to a story of a false front – in public the heartbreak is over, in private it’s tears until dawn. ‘Deep Deep Down in the Silent Grave‘ is accompanied by a strangely stomping percussion and bursts of eerie violin which fade in and blow away like the mists on the moors. It’s a strange poem seeming to mourn a death, but perhaps more the death of love “Deep, deep down in the silent grave, with none to mourn above / Here with my knee upon your stone I bid adieu to feelings gone“, although again there’s the suggestion that these dead and buried feelings are not truly so fully buried. ‘There Was a Time‘ injects a Laurel Canyon sensibility into the album, up-tempo and with winning Joni Mitchell-esque vocal acrobatics.
If this were truly the sound of Sophie Livebrant filling in time while the world took a pause then it’s a strong argument for more pandemics. Actually it’s Sophie Livebrant doing what she does, and doing it splendidly. This is an album you’ll want to listen to on repeat. A deal of credit should also be given to the musicians on the album, who are perfectly in tune with the form of the spirit of Bronte being invoked here.
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