A self-described Middle-Earth beatnik, dead-head, folk singer/painter from Cambridge, following on from a shared album with Tom Gaskell this (as the title playfully observes) is her somewhat belated solo debut, a collection of self-penned (and, save for drums on three tracks, self-played) material and two traditional numbers.
Accompanied by organ, it opens lightly with a simple love song ‘Fond and Fancy’ (“every day I thank my stars, I’ll end the day in your arms”) that throws up those 60s folk influences, shifting to more medieval shading with the sparse, ethereal and echoey sung ‘Devil’s Fountain’ that couches tales of doomed or broken relationships in fairytale settings (“None taste the water since the King’s daughter leapt after her lover and never was seen.Most fear she died. Others say she survived held by the devil who made her his queen”).
Another musically moody, reflective track, tinged with jazz hues, somewhere between Bridget St John and early Joni Mitchell, ‘Cabbage White’ addresses writer’s block, staring at a blank sheet of paper but also takes the metaphor to muse on a deeper emptiness. Fingered and folksy, again skirting jazz colours and with sound effect swirls, ‘He Wren’ would appear to be about some kind of toxic masculinity masquerading as concern (“He’s a friend, he’ll do anything for anyone/Now he never has to leave/He’s a disease.Please leave me”), though I suspect it might again have to do with the creative process and why she refers to the Trippin’ of the title as self-sabotage as an artistic medium (“Here’s a wren called melody died”).
The first of the traditional numbers is John Harle’s pared back airily sung working of the slain knight tale of ‘The Three Ravens’, the avian imagery continuing with her own strummed ominous The Blaggard Blackbird’, her shifting voice like evening mist enfolding woods, part treated, part accompanied by birdsong in its fable of cunning and deception.
Again musically understated and evocative, casually strummed and vocally double-tracked to a narcotic effect, bells or triangle tinkling somewhere in the distance, ‘Neither Lonely’ uses chess imagery to muse on a pragmatic relationship (“the king and queen are happy with this broken status quo, she sees from afar his was always just a temporary part”). Such emotional ambiguity also courses through ‘We Could Be Strangers’ with its acoustic strum organ and vibes (?) as, her voice quietly rising and falling, she sings “I really hate that trouble greets me like an old friend, courts me like a lover, how I hope it never ends” only to add ” I wouldn’t mind if trouble were offset by some kind of pleasure, something to keep and to treasure”.
The second traditional number is a drone setting of the wintery mournful ‘Rolling of the Stones#, a variant of ‘The Two Brothers’, a Scottish ballad based on an incident near Edinburgh in 1589 when one brother accidentally shot and killed the other.
It ends with the low-key waltzing and muted bowed cymbal of ‘For a While (Song For Carl)’, written for a friend who passed away and capturing that sense of unfathomable loss (“I never saw you every day, never saw enough of you anyway, but I will think of you, for a while every day”).
Wistful, understated, delicate yet with restrained power, it needs to be listened to with your full attention, but it’s a decidedly auspicious opening bow that deserves many encores.