This, That & The Other
Marina Florance is just one of the coolest women on the folk circuit at the moment. The Londoner hasn't done the conventional route into music, starting quite late in life, but it shows in her unconventional sound.
Her style is a cross between Leonard Cohen and Peggy Seeger with a sort of retro 50s feel reminiscent of great singers such as Ketty Lester and Patti Page.
Her music crosses boundaries between folk, country, blues and Americana and on occasion has a definite continental feel to it.
Florance has such a distinct sound which has the ability to make you feel nostalgic without even knowing why or what for. Opening with I Told You My Troubles you have the gentleness of her voice which belies the strength of character in the lyrics and rhythm. It almost has the feel of a native American anthem and seems to come with its own history.
What follows is Little Black Cloud which has all the feeling of a torch song and which you can imagine being sung in the back of a candle-lit cavern full of beatniks and the air thick with the smell of Gauloises.
The Wedding Song again harks back to singers such as the great Patsy Cline and her frock wearing contemporaries. This is a gentle offering and although it has the light feeling of song that wouldn't be out of place in Mary Poppins, Florance has that ability to give it a depth of feeling which puts her on a par with peers such as Kathryn Roberts and Ange Hardy.
The subtle use of strings in her creation A Better Song is so precise, not a single note is wasted. It's a beautiful ballad, the only questionable part is Richard Pierce's call to Florance's response, the addition of which doesn't really add anything to the whole.
Take A Little Time begins as a simple sound which adds layer after layer as the song progresses and has again that built-in retro sound which sounds like something you once heard and reminds you of a better happier time but you don't quite know when. Listening to Florance is like having your own musical time machine, however you can't quite set the dial to pinpoint the exact time. It's a quality she should nurture because it makes her stand out.
She plumbs for the pretty much contemporary country sound with When The Past Came A Callin' and by now you come to realise her talent doesn't just lie in her notable singing and playing, but she is a fine songwriter keeping her lyrics simply but effective.
You feel she has honed every song until there is simple no room for anything superfluous or which adds nothing to the whole. You get an inkling they are musical sculptures where she has chipped away at everything which doesn't sound like the finished song. Carried away is almost the sister song to the previous offering and even has shades of Dolly Parton in it as the mandolin carries her voice along at a canter.
She is at her most Cohenish with Bring Me That Sweet Thing Called Love, you can feel on this track she is really pushing her voice to the limit of its range and she isn't found wanting. It's another perfect example of how economic she is with her music and singing, you just hear that every note played and sung has been handcrafted to fit in its place in the whole. And of course exhibiting the mark of a craftswoman by making it sound so easy.
|Florance's new album
Had the doo-wop feel of the A Room Of Your Own not been written by her it could easily feel like it was plucked straight from the 1950s. You can almost see the glitterball highlighting the frocks and Ben Sherman's as couples indulge in the last dance of the night.
I'll Remember You carries an uncanny resemblance to unchained melody and is just as lovely a ballad but with Florance's trademark minimalist style. She has this remarkable way about her which makes you want to hear every word of the verses like being engrossed in the pages of a gripping novel. In this track too, more than any other, her voice seems to exude an incredible vulnerability.
The final track is an instrumental version of track three which is light, cheerful and just lovely to indulge in.
For all the albums which are due out in 2016 this will be among the first and if all the others match the distinctiveness and enjoyability of Florance's then folk fans are in for a fantastic year of music and song.
This, That & The Other is available to download on January 1 from Folkstock Records with the official album launch on January 16.