Ghosts, The debut album by UK duo Smoke Fairies really killed my plans for this Saturday. I planned on listening to the many cd’s and lp’s and mp3’s waiting to be played and maybe shake my world. They ruined it. Indeed, my world was shaken. But it was only one album, that I’ve heard about five times today, and nothing else. Well, I also played the first albums by Trees, the 70’s UK folk band, but that was just because I was searching for references.
So let me just say, that It’s been a while since I last heard a folk album that sent shivers down my spine. Smoke Fairies’ album is this album.
The email I got from their publicist, whom I’ve learned to trust coz he always bring me good stuff (have you listened to Careful yet?), had several of reviews quoted. The impression I got was of a retro folk band, which they are REALLY not. Indeed, if you gotta find the inspirations in their music, you can throw the names Pentangle, and the Fairport Convention to the air, but it’ll be doing injustice to them. True, high pitched singer from the UK gotta be influenced by Jacqui McShee right? no. They don’t. If I gotta find the equivalents to their music, in that far era, it will be some of the releases of the underground label Kissing Spell.
Kissing Spell was a great label. They released really obscure UK underground folk and psychedelic-folk bands, no one heard about them but the hardcore fans knew there’s one label where they can buy just about anything. I guess if we were in the early 70’s right now, Smoke Fairies would have release their album with them.
What we are talking about is a band that has already released an EP last year, the band was Dead Weather/Raconteurs members, and the drums were played by one Jack White. The later also produced their first single that time. Now, they hold a fantastic collection of nine strong songs, that blends the blues and British folk in such a refreshing way, that it causes a long time Brit-folk like myself, to go through all the Kissing Spells records, and listen heavily to Solomone’s Seal.
See, it’s not a retro band, trying to capture the jazz-blues-folk blend of Pentangle. They’re modern, and their production, though based on stuff that has been done 80 years ago (the slide playing is fantastic), bring something totally new. Sort of a duo singer/songwriters, with a new approach, where the production is not the main thing, but it’s not something to ignore either.
Frozen Hearts sounds vocally like Lindisfarne, but the tribal drums and the fuzzy slide guitar, throws me to the wonderful Van Lear Rose album that White did to Loretta Lynn. Morning Light could have appeared easily on Hissing On Summer-era of Joni Mitchell, while I could picture June Tabor singing Living With Ghosts and We Had Lost Our Minds.
The guitars here makes all the difference. No more acoustic folk with pathos, but powerful electric guitar playing with presence and balls.
I’m pretty happy to bump into this album. Because in the recent years we’ve seen a lot of so called acid-folk albums, which usually had nothing to do with acid nor folk. Only band I can think of that really made the merge successfully was Espers. I demand this genre to be called differently. I’m not a native English speaker so my imagination and ideas for names isn’t in its best, but I guess calling it a doom/gloom folk that is not Faun Fables – can be close enough.
Not sure if Fairies are aware of it, but they have an almost identical evil twin band in the US – the fantastic trio Lights. When I listened to the Fairies album, like every music blogger I searched for things that sounds alike, but it wasn’t to be found in the 70’s. It was to be found in Language Of Stone, the perfect label for the Fairies, that also released Lights in 2008. If anything, I can say that Language Of Stone, label of Greg Weeks (Espers and a terrific solo career), is the Kissing Spell follower, not sure that he meant to be so, but you know, it’s just that.
Anyway, the Fairies will support the US tour of English folkster Laura Marling from May 4th to 28th. If I were you, and not stuck in the middle east (the area, not the club) – I would do anything to catch their show. Aside from the fact they are both beautiful that it hurts, their music is so astonishing, that for me, I found one of the best album of 2010, thanks girls.
Ghosts is on a limited vinyl print, 500 copies. Get it directly from them.
p.s. And they play on great guitars. I want that Hofner too.