Folk

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

Take Care Take Cover The Mae Trio Foot­stomp To sug­gest that Mel­bourne’s the Mae Trio is too good to be true would be to ig­nore the em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence pro­vided by a sim­ply su­perb sopho­more al­bum. Cut in Nashville, Take Care Take Cover cer­tainly jus­ti­fies a de­ci­sion made by sib­lings Mag­gie and Elsie Rigby and their band­mate Anita Hill­man, af­ter the re­lease of their aus­pi­cious 2013 de­but long-player, House­warm­ing, to cut short univer­sity cour­ses to pur­sue a mu­sic ca­reer. These fresh-faced young women are al­ready snap­ping at the heels of the Waifs sib­lings Donna Simp­son and Vikki Thorn as roots mu­sic fes­ti­val favourites, home and away. In­deed, a heart­break ode ( Call Me Stranger) writ­ten by Mag­gie Rigby that’s among the high­lights of their sec­ond al­bum would not be out of place on the Waifs’ new re­lease, Iron­bark, in terms of acu­ity of lyrics and all­round qual­ity: “Call me stranger, call me friend / call me lover, some­where near the end. / Call me the end­ing, cold and cruel.” All of the trio’s highly melodic, im­mac­u­lately crafted songs are ar­ranged to use the di­verse in­stru­men­tal tal­ents of its mem­bers, their angelic lead voices and, most per­ti­nently, their ex­quis­ite vo­cal har­mony. Iron­i­cally, it’s the al­bum’s sole cover — of Scot Karine Pol­wart’s ele­giac Waterlily — ren­dered a cap­pella, that pro­vides the per­fect con­veyance for their spine-tin­gling three-part singing. Soar­ing har­mony also hits home in Grandma’s, a song that’s rem­i­nis­cent of the great Scot­tish trou­ba­dour Dougie MacLean’s finest work. Via lines such as “the clouds are turn­ing sil­ver around the edges”, Mag­gie Rigby’s mov­ing paean chron­i­cles the peace and con­tent­ment found by a ma­tri­arch as her mem­ory fades dur­ing the on­set of Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

The Scot­tish He­brides in­spired another po­etic com­po­si­tion from the trio’s prin­ci­pal song­writer. In Skye, Hill­man’s cello solo el­e­gantly echoes sen­ti­ments evoca­tively ex­pressed in verses such as: “We headed north to the edge of the earth for a day / and we fell in love with the dark clouds above along the way / the sky gave its colour to the ocean ‘til it was pur­ple, green and grey.” Be­ly­ing the ti­tle, Sweet as Honey in­ti­mates con­cern for young peo­ple who slip through the cracks of com­mu­nity care: “Sweet as honey, dark as wine / Brit­tle as bone and sub­tle as time.” While it may be im­pelled by a folkie man­dolin vibe, Elsie Rigby’s Haul Away trans­poses an English sea shanty theme to a 21st-cen­tury set­ting. The same com­poser’s Heart of a Storm has more of an Amer­i­can coun­try feel, en­hanced by the con­tri­bu­tion of a distin­guished guest, Dar­rell Scott, on pedal steel gui­tar. Scott’s lap steel slide com­bined with Mag­gie Rigby’s banjo also lends a Nashville am­bi­ence to the lively open­ing track, Well Enough Alone. Pred­i­cated on her vi­o­lin pizzi­cato, Elsie Rigby’s Only Ever Grow­ing grows steadily to a grand cho­ral cli­max (with trum­pet ac­com­pa­ni­ment), bring­ing a truly out­stand­ing al­bum to a fit­ting con­clu­sion.

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