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Anne Marie Almedal

Memory Lane

47 / Proper Music Distribution

Albums like this provide a refuge. A refuge from oafish hip-hop and rap interludes on otherwise acceptable songs, from the cocky ‘we’re heading for stadium glory’ attitude that so many acts utilize to propel themselves forward in the music business, from rich lads wearing expensive farmer-chic outfits as they try to sound rural and earthy….what Anne-Marie Almedal and her muso partner Nicholas Sillitoe have largely succeeded in doing here is creating an unhurried stroll through an enchanted forest for your ears. It is hard to listen to any cut without being transported to a misty sonic woodland but thankfully it’s far from being soporific, the listener is more likely to be intrigued and just surrender to the soundscape.

Star feature is of course is the calm but warm-toned vocals of Almedal, who has worked with rock and arty bands but sounds at home here in the organic instrumentation and careful arrangements enhancing the songs, which are mostly her own.   The production trump card is the sometime presence of double bass spellcaster Danny Thompson. As ever his phrases often start with a tumble of notes on the changes before shifting into sparse emphatic bass notes, across time and unrelated to any other instruments EXCEPT that the rumble of the patterns sounds exactly right. Also to be spotted by the cognoscenti is the high singing of Katherine Blake of Miranda Sex Garden renown and guitar ace Kjetil Grande.  Yes, every now and again the great Sandy Denny’s ghost hovers over the tunes and especially in Anne Marie’s phrasing but this is folk music and it’s no more a crime than us guitar players hitting the odd Buddy Guy lick. At one point the ensemble could be about to segue into the Fairport Convention gem ‘A Sailor’s Life’  ; however – and  it must be a production decision -  I hear no drums on this album. The rhythm parts of the stringed instruments carry the tempos. Drums or percussion would have benefited a couple of selections, it must be said – namely, those noted below.

The Norwegian songstress manages to vary the songs reasonably well  and delivers them with confidence.  Opener ‘Back Where We Started’ has a burbling acoustic opening with eerie recorder and if the mood on Matt Deighton’s folk albums is evoked, that’s no bad thing. The harmonies added are soft and with some depth, the changes hit with a flourish. ‘One Day’ has stately piano and the sweetest singing you could encounter as the baroque strings ease in, a blissful brew indeed. The version of John Martyn’s song of blessing ‘May You Never’ approaches stealthily before it is tenderly presented, with an icy touch in the arrangement in counterpoint to the bubbling bass undertow.  The skipping ‘Two Of A Kind’ could use a Dave Mattacks tom-tom bedrock and given that would be an obvious single as this has the strongest melody and a very personal vocal where Anne Marie sounds like no-one but Anne-Marie. The sitar-like picking is too timid by half !  Great song, this.

Danny T comes into his own on the dour ‘Scars’ which could be a Fotheringay out-take. ‘The River and the Sea’ is a mystic weave with a subtle cinematic feel, yearning for light tympani. The sweetness of delicacy.

Unfortunately. having heard TV cop actor Telly Savalas attempt David Gates ballad ‘If’ back in the day, this listener can never hear the Bread song again without wincing – even when delivered by a talented Scandinavian beauty…..I  recall master singer Jack Jones being asked on The Tonight Show whether he had encountered the Savalas version, he simply said he had indeed witnessed Telly in cabaret and then muttered  ‘ I have seen him sing and heard him dance…’

Title track ‘Memory Lane’ gets us back on track and hints at early Joni Mitchell or even Judy Collins, with gentle insistence in the arrangement ; the plinky-plonk opening of ‘Winter Song’ recalls school teacher piano but the singing is spot on and lyrics of novella quality, best bridge on the record and those beautiful strings…..

Heartbreak arrives in the guise of ‘And It’s The Loneliness’ with its slightly fuzzed-guitar but unfortunately no delay thereon  – use some ‘live’, please ?

Closer ‘The Wanderer’ has a melee of voices over the intro and a stark song to finish with.

Perhaps a tad melancholic for some overall, this album nevertheless creates a delicate blend  of peaceful beauty and thoughtfulness, so far from the thumping city bustle of most music chucked into our ears

Pete Sargeant      www.fairhearing.co.uk

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