Fly­ing high

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC - LAU­REN MUR­PHY

LAURA MAR­LING

Once I Was an Ea­gle Vir­gin

★★★★

Much of Laura Mar­ling’s press has fo­cused on her pre­co­cious tal­ent, her abil­ity to craft songs with a ma­tu­rity un­sur­passed by her peers, and a tal­ent for phras­ing that usu­ally only comes with decades of ex­pe­ri­ence. Four al­bums later and it’s be­com­ing eas­ier to dis­re­gard the sub­ject of the Hamp­shire na­tive’s age. (She’s 23, by the way.)

That’s not to say that those qual­i­ties aren’t true of Mar­ling to­day. Once I Was an Ea­gle ce­ments the Los An­ge­les-domi­ciled song­writer as one of the best in the busi­ness. Af­ter the philo­soph­i­cal mus­ings of A Crea­ture I Don’t Know, Mar­ling here tack­les the thorny topic of love head-on.

At first, they’re heavy with self-doubt and re­gret on the quiv­er­ing Take the Night Off, Once I Was an Ea­gle and You Know. The lat­ter’s ref­er­ences to

a “free­wheel­ing trou­ba­dour” are per­haps telling of her for­mer dal­liances with Mar­cus Mum­ford and Noah and the Whale’s Char­lie Fink. The rol­lick­ing Amer­i­cana of Mas­ter Hunter is com­par­a­tively de­fi­ant, both mu­si­cally and lyri­cally (“If you want a woman who can call your name, it ain’t me, babe”), but there is sal­va­tion in re­cent love as the al­bum pro­gresses, par­tic­u­larly on the up­beat Love Be Brave (“How does he make love seem so sweet?”) and the vi­brant flour­ish of clos­ing track Saved Th­ese Words. Ethan Johns’s in­ti­mate pro­duc­tion gives th­ese songs an acutely per­sonal tone, al­though he would have done well to sug­gest cur­tail­ing the 16 tracks to a more man­age­able and undi­luted run­ning time.

Yet whether she is softly croon­ing over a plucked gui­tar or dabbling with or­gans and per­cus­sion for qui­etly ca­cophonous cli­maxes, Mar­ling is never less than cap­ti­vat­ing.

Com­par­isons with the greats – Mitchell, King et al – still shim­mer in the ether, but they are be­com­ing ever less pro­nounced. Lau­ramar­ling.com

Down­load: Mas­ter Hunter, I Was an Ea­gle

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