Frankie Armstrong: Cats of Coven Lawn review | Jude Rogers’s folk album of the month

Frankie Armstrong has the voice of an outsider artist: tremulous, earnest, usually whimsical, often lovely. Her singing started in the skiffle growth, earlier than she joined Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger’s Critics Group; after years instructing Natural Voice singing, she’s sung reside with Lankum lately, and joined a brand new band, Green Ribbons, with Alasdair Roberts, Bird in the Belly’s Ben Webb and Burd Ellen’s Debbie Armour. The launch of Cats of Coven Lawn coincides together with her eightieth birthday. Throughout, it crackles with a rough-hewn, abrasive intimacy.

The paintings for Cats of Coven Lawn.

Its 16 songs had been recorded reside at residence over a number of weekends final yr, with minimal overdubs. Opening observe Bread and Roses, impressed by the 1912 textile mill strike in Massachusetts, establishes its uncooked, political clout. Delivered with a determined craving, its message about tradition and sweetness being wanted as a lot as sustenance feels well timed now: “Hearts starve as well as bodies / Give us bread, but give us roses.”

Hippy vibes and protest tune tradition beat their chests by way of We Are Women and Earth, Air, Fire and Water, however the album’s excursions into different cultures provide the most thrills. Yoiks is a transferring, energising association of a Sami tune. Ajde Jano is a joyous, Serbian folk tune the place a girl is inspired to promote her horse and her home to come back and dance.

The quirkiness often veers in direction of queasiness, however Marcy’s Guest House is implausible: a ghostly unique by Ben Webb, which locations Armstrong as the shivery proprietor of an empty resort. “The milk hasn’t been delivered since a bird drowned in the cream,” she sings, her wild voice stretching at the seams, suggesting different worlds she may discover.

Also out this month

Yasmin Williams’ second album Urban Driftwood (Spinster) is an bold, instrumental narrative of America’s 2020, mixing folk, pop and west African influences into attractive work impressed by the Black Lives Matter motion. Jim Ghedi’s In the Furrows of Common Place (Basin Rock) can be political, combining social historical past, literature and his ferocious vocals for the first time. The outcomes are blended: the music usually lovely, the messages too swaggering. James Yorkston and the Second Hand Orchestra’s The Wide, Wide River (Domino) is one other fascinating, curious contribution to the Scottish musician’s continuously eddying catalogue, recorded with the Swedish collective in three wild, improvisational days.

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