Daria Kulesh has one of the most distinctive and instantly recognisable voices on the folk circuit. Her hauntingly refined and precise singing has an element of the operatic and as you listen she seems to have an ability to evoke images within your psyche which are not yours.
So it seems rather appropriate that the introduction to her first solo album should be Fata Morgana (for her fairy godmother).
Her breathy delivery and the ethereal sounding piano in the background create an atmosphere that is reminiscent of children sitting around a storyteller in a darkened room, highlighted by the flicker of an open fire and being enthralled by Kulesh as she fills the room with her gorgeous tones.
This gives way to the slightly quicker beat of Letting Go, a eulogy to her first love. On this occasion Kulesh's voice is like the wind with her voice swirling and climbing ever higher into the heavens. As you listen to the gentle sounding Right Here you almost you feel you are intruding on someone deep in their own thoughts and musings.
With simple guitar picking accenting her singing, Kulesh reminisces about being a wee girl and rather than being enslaved by her memories she is sending out a call to never let the inner child die, there should always be time to go back to your own garden of sunlight from your past.
Tamed, in spite of the title, has the feel of a love song and seems to step out of the realms of folk music to sound like something from one of the shows.
It is a gentle ballad which unfortunately borders on the dreary and if heard in isolation rather than part of this collection wouldn't really show off Kulesh's voice to its best. It sounds like the most personal of the songs and with lyrics such as, "I don't understand why you shunned all the roses and picked me instead?" you could be led to several assumptions; that she is being self-deprecating or that at some stage she had low self-esteem comparing herself to some other flower rather than romantic and beautifully perfumed roses. It has to be said it's a brave move to bare so much of your personality in song. But it does add a gravitas to the songs which deserves the respect of being listened to.
There is a definite medieval and European feel to At Midnight, you can almost see Kulesh looking out of a window in the highest tower of a castle.
It does have the feel of Greensleeves as she sings her incantation and sends her thoughts swirling into the ether.
|Tales of Europe - The Singing Ringing Tree|
It has been released as a single for Debra the charity which supports and helps those who are suffering the condition. This makes it difficult to be completely honest in reviewing such a song for fear of sounding like a grouch.
However, honourable as the song's intention is, some of the analogies seem a little strained and it does lean towards the indulgent. One of the wonderful attractions of folk music is that you can take the most mundane of people, places and events and when you give them the impetus of music and then add lyrics they become real and fully-rounded characters.
Hairdresser is on the surface simply inspired by the woman who cut Kulesh's hair when she was a child. But she has scratched the surface and underneath this ordinary practitioner is a complex life. A life full of problems and hardships which again with Kulesh's outstanding storytelling skills and her undulating voice puts flesh on the bones and lays out a tapestry of the subject's daily trials.
The way Kulesh creates that swinging rhythm you almost expect a full choir to come out at any moment and pick up the chorus to blow sound out like cannon fire.
Kulesh gives a hint of the top of her range without any sign of strain for Fake Wonderland. There is a brooding, menacing element to this tune and her voice has a hint of coldness as she warns of the illusion of security and happiness that wealth can create. Sooner or later, just like Alice, you have to wake up and come back to reality.
The penultimate track has already been released on The Christmas Present, another album produced by Folkstock which is gathering a thoroughly impressive stable of performers.
Kate Rouse's dulcimer opens mimicking the falling snowflakes.
This is where Kulesh's voice spills over more into the operatic her singing can adopt with such ease.
|Kulesh's first solo album|
This is a simple but very effective ballad with its uncomplicated string picking but Kulesh's voice adds a real depth and colour to the whole.
Not quite a concept album but it does have that constant theme of the journey from childhood and how we need to keep the elements of wonder, innocence and an uncynical view of life and the world around us without being trapped in the past.
This is a pretty deep album and, it would seem, a very personal one drawing deeply on Kulesh's colourful and sometimes troubled life. It's easy to assume that Kulesh has put a great deal of emotion and soul searching into these tracks which makes for an album where you do feel slightly like an intruder but it's worth the risk of being caught just to hear her sing.
Eternal Child is released on January 31 by Folkstock Records.