Waters So Deep
Daria Kulesh must have the most refined voice in folk music. If Julie Andrews had been a folk singer there is a good chance she would have sounded like this and that is in no way any kind of criticism.
Right from the first track Russalka you are transported on a musical magic carpet to exotic places; to hear enthralling stories; to mysterious alleys and to Parisian side streets and a myriad other images the sound of Gary Holbrook's accordion and the dulcimer of Oxford's Kate Rouse conjure up.
Then Kulesh's perfectly constructed lyrics come in and you are mesmerised. The clarity, precision and refinement of her singing is like a gentle breeze cleaning out all the cobwebs and dust from your psyche.
It can be hard to get past the first track because you just want to keep going back and replaying it.
She turns Hunter's Moon into an almost classical piece and yet somehow harkens back to the sixties with the sounds which reminds of performers such as Peter, Paul & Mary, The Seekers and Mary Hopkin.
Kulesh's singing is almost like a vocal massage, you just feel better for hearing her. She should offer her voice to the NHS alternative therapies department, if they have such a thing.
The lovely and traditional Union Street is just such a gentle ballad with Ben Honey's evocative narrative you have little trouble imagining the images she conjures up with her lyrics. The way he has arranged the instruments to provide the scenery for the story too is just wonderful.
From the first notes of In Lille you are in France, just like the scene from Tron the music picks you up pulls you into Kulesh's mysterious story of questionable passion. The lightness of the accordion has a wonderfully sinister undertone so reminiscent of the scores of film noir.
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The breathy voice of Kulesh on Mermaid's Lullaby is not unlike Moya Brennan of Clannad in its ethereal feel. You get a real sense of Kulesh's Russian roots on this one as she and the band utilise the tune from Rimsky Korsakov to tell the story of the love between a mermaid and a shipwrecked dulcimer player, rather fortunate for the tune's sake, the sort of narrative of which great folk songs are made. Tinsel Town is another of Honey's and is a very easy ballad but, even though it's original work there is something instantly familiar about it. It's a little like a folk version of Petula Clark's Downtown, but much more subtle, gentle and complex with it's melodies underneath Kulesh's hypnotic singing.
The wonderfully imaginatively titled Flying Spaghetti Monster is a real gem of a tune especially if you're a fan of the dulcimer. It opens like something from an Oliver Postgate animation, it wouldn't be out of place as a soundtrack to Bagpuss or Pogle's Wood. But it leads you into a false sense of security because after the first few bars it takes to the wind. It's a beautifully executed piece of dulcimer playing that's just an absolutely treat for the ears.
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In Lunenburg is what could be described as modern folk, it's a contemporary story of a doomed relationship but narrated through the music in very much a traditional way.
Kulesh goes out on the album with a gentle ballad full of emotion and with the minimum of accompaniment, the dulcimer just about discernible underneath her rich voice until it is given the space for an instrumental interlude.
Without doubt Waters So Deep is one of the most original debut albums for some time and among the most distinctive folk albums around at the moment, it defies anyone who listens to it not to fall under the spell of Kulesh's siren like tones and the magic of Rouse's dulcimer.
There isn't a bad track on this disc and although the tones are gentle and light, like all good folk music on many of the tracks there is that delicious dark, more sinister element lurking in the shadows just waiting for your imagination to let it out of the locked cupboard, so go on you know you want to.
Waters So Deep is out now and available from itunes, Amazon and Spotify.
Peter, Paul & Mary
|The Mike Harding Folk Show|