Indie folk reflections from the natural world.
Any artist will have a story to tell about creating music during a pandemic. Many found themselves having to adjust their plans very drastically from groups to something much more solitary. For their debut EP duo Samuel James Taylor and Rebecca Van Cleave went in an opposite direction. What had been intended to be stripped back two voices and acoustic guitar became a much broader collaboration with friends across an ocean. This desire to maintain links in the isolation of lockdown resulted in a more capacious and highly impressive record of indie-folk. Though only five tracks there is a timelessness about ‘And You, And Me’ that reflects the impact of the natural world on human connections.
Taylor and Van Cleave took their collective name from a poem by Nikita Gill, ‘Your Soft Heart’, Two years before the pandemic struck and realising they were struggling to fit in with the increasingly angry, polarised modern life they headed for the peace of rural England. There, drawing inspiration from as diverse sources as the art of Ruskin and Turner and the writing of Mary Oliver, they replaced noise with connection, kindness, love and the beauty of nature.
Their music has the ethereal quality of Gregory Alan Isakov and The Lumineers. With no pressure from recording contracts Taylor and Van Cleave set themselves no expectations. Only their natural surroundings would determine the pace. They recorded in the US and England adding instrumentation and production along the way. ‘And You, And Me’ is firmly grounded in the folk of both sides of the Atlantic overlaid with an appealing, if unusual, combination of indie and country.
‘Bramble Lane’ sets the scene by asking a question. “Let’s take a walk down to Bramble Lane/ If I closed my eyes, would it feel the same?” Immediately the haunting harmonies of Taylor and Van Cleaves, the distant strings and persistent acoustic strum set human emotion against the permanence of nature.
‘The Hawkmoon and the Hurricane’ shimmers mistily. Again the natural world is an allegory for human emotion. “I’m the hurricane, you’re the wind/ I’m the hawkmoon, and you’re my sin”. A flowing guitar line builds up into the climactic “Hold my heart, hold me heart/ Hold me heart in your wings”. The Lumineers definitely spring to mind on ‘Evelyn’ with its pronounced ebb and flow of pace, vocal and sonic range. The country tinged relaxed harmonies of ‘Green, Blue’ against a gently picked acoustic and banjo flow along as the vocal warmth evoke a summer’s day by the river. “Let it roll/ Float down the stream/ Lazy afternoon/ Is all I need”.
Closing with the title track Taylor and Van Cleave stay with a country-folk vibe. The intimacy of ‘And You, And Me’ has a feel of release “Say the word/ Pack the cases and go”. Again they alternate the spare with the richer sound, true testimony that their retreat has been worth it. Radiating warmth and compassion we must hope for a lot more from this enigmatic folk duo.