Fath­oms

The Observer - The New Review - - Pop -

(Hud­son)

Folkies flit be­tween out­fits al­most as much as jazzers. Emily Port­man, Alas­dair Roberts, Rachel New­ton and Lucy Far­rell all have their own groups and al­bums, be­com­ing the Fur­row Col­lec­tive to con­cen­trate on tra­di­tion rather than orig­i­nal com­po­si­tions. Most of the dozen songs on this third al­bum are well known – in the case of The Cruel Grave and the Dark-Eyed Gyp­sies one might say over­ex­posed – but the group re­fresh them with a mix­ture of ag­ile ar­range­ments and closeknit har­monies.

Though the quar­tet take turns to sing lead, it’s their blended vo­cals that strike home. Davy Low­ston, a true tale of aban­doned mariners, uses only har­mo­nium and voices. Our Ship She’s Ready, a poignant story of em­i­gra­tion, like­wise has a soli­tary gui­tar back­ing. When they do pick up their in­stru­ments – vi­o­lin, harp, banjo, squeeze­box and more – the col­lec­tive stay re­strained. The Cruel Grave comes with eerie elec­tro­harp; oth­er­wise the group are con­tent with ca­dent, span­gled back­drops. There’s lit­tle of the ebul­lience that lifted 2016’s Wild Hog, but Fath­oms has its own charms, and once again comes ex­pertly pro­duced by la­bel boss Andy Bell. Chalk one up for tra­di­tion. Neil Spencer

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