Friday, 4 November 2011
Review: Mary Hampton
Mary Hampton - Folly (Teaspoon Records)
If this folk music had been made underwater we wouldn’t be talking about a swimming pool. We’d be in an ocean trench, so far down that it would seem almost impossible to resurface after its completion. Well, that’s how the first three tracks kick off (and how "Kiss V" develops), giving out a sense of purpose that builds and builds, until the dam gives way, and the music cascades through and envelopes you completely. Either that, or you have to turn the stereo off. You simply cannot 'half' listen to this. Subsequent tracks, right through to closer "Lullaby For The Beleaguered", all have an emphatic quality that requires close attention to every note and word. Mary Hampton gives her all in the most exquisite way, using her voice as an extra instrument, and each track becomes a symphony of feeling, even when a track, such as the aforementioned "Lullaby..." or "Hoax And Benison", appears to have been pared down to basic elements.
She has created an unusual record here, and although you don’t have to be a dyed-in-the-wool folk fanatic to enjoy it, you need to understand the commitment that she and her helpers have made to keep to an authentic path. Apart from the sheer clarity of sound, this could have been made when the 1890's gave way to the 20th century, without an electronic note to be heard, unless we include samples of a Bluethroat, a Goldcrest and cars in the rain. Instead, with a piano, we have superb brass, reeds, strings, and gentle percussive clatter coming from chandeliers, pins, walls, and shoes.
It’s a thing of utter beauty, and like all such things, needs to be handled with kid gloves. Therefore listen to it when your mood is calm and blissful, or positively thoughtful, or you’re just plain ready to take it on board. Believe me, it’s well worth picking the right moment.