Stuart Ryan takes a look at the acoustic stylings of a Brit Award-winning artist and leading light in the nu-folk scene, the supremely talented Laura Marling.
Stuart Ryan unveils the acoustic approach of singer-songwriter Laura Marling.
At just shy of 24 years of age, English singersongwriter Laura Marling is already seen as a leading light in the still burgeoning nu-folk movement. She receives regular airplay on influential radio programmes like Bob Harris’s Saturday night special and the Mark Radcliffe Folk Show, both of which air on BBC Radio 2.
A Brit award winner, Marling emerged from the same scene that gave rise to acts such as Mumford & Sons and Noah And The Whale. Not only has she collaborated with these giants of the genre, at one stage the former were actually her backing band - and she was briefly a member of the latter!
A very credible artist indeed, music critics have even likened her songwriting abilities to those of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.
Marling, who hails from Hampshire in the UK, comes from a musical family and learnt the guitar at age six from her father - he ran a recording studio and her mother was a music teacher.
Her early influences included Neil Young, James Taylor and Bob Dylan. You can hear all of these in her guitar playing, from the delicate, ornamented fingerpicking of Taylor through to the heavy, percussive attack of Neil Young and the more straight-ahead strumming of Dylan.
However, Marling herself notes that her first love was punk and as she grew older she also discovered alternative country artists like Ryan Adams; this too informed her style, which has a distinct Americana element mixed in with the modern English folk sound, and more than a hint of punk attitude.
Marling released her first album, Alas I Cannot Swim, at the tender age of 18 and she now has a total of four highly regarded releases to her name. You can hear her perform in a number of contexts, from solo singer-songwriter mode where the guitar is used to perform the traditional role of fingerpicked accompaniment, to a full band featuring cello in the line-up.
For this study I’ve focused on the fingerpicking side of her style and put together a conventional chord progression that’s made more interesting via some different note choices within the chords.
More and more of today’s young singersongrwriters are finding that they can write using the traditional, if you like ‘well-worn’ progressions, as long as they make their own voicings unique - just as players like James Taylor did. As we’ve seen before, the use of open strings is now very common, and just one open string can often serve as the ‘glue’ which holds an entire progression together.
That’s the approach I’ve taken with today’s piece. In this case the open second string appears throughout most of our chord sequence, tying everything together. Why not try a similar idea on other progressions?
Marling released her first album, Alas I Cannot Swim, at the tender age of 18.
Laura Marling: a leading light in the nu-folk scene