'The Eternal Rocks Beneath'
I've spent the last few months in 1971. Although I haven't yet discovered the secret of time travel, I have immersed myself in what is, allegedly, the finest year in popular music.
I've hung out with Joni and Janis, listened to 'Tapestry' and 'Hunky Dory'. And realised with horror and sadness that the issues of 'What's Going On' are still relevant.
Now, after writing far too many words on the big birthday of 'Blue', it's time to come back to the present.
Ideally, upon my return, I want to hear music that has something of that magic to it. I need to hear a gifted singer-songwriter with emotional and intelligent lyrics, a sweet and pure voice, graceful guitar playing... I'm not asking for too much am I?
Katherine Priddy has all of these things in abundance. Her debut album, 'The Eternal Rocks Beneath' is the culmination of two years of work and even more years of writing. Her songwriting and performance have that rare quality - of sounding both timeless and contemporary. She's absorbed those fifty-year old (and probably much older), records to create something distinctively hers.
Opener 'Indigo' starts with birdsong and the Drake-iest (Nick, not Aubrey), of guitar introductions. It is an enchanting tale of love, filled with nature, memory, and mystery. The beguiling lyrics linger long after the song has finished.
The tangled romance of 'Wolf' takes its inspiration from 'Wuthering Heights' and is retold as if it were an old folk tale that June Tabor may have discovered. Simon Weaver's sensitive production allows the music to build. It's is cinematic and, by the time the strings and tin whistle commence, you will be out on the Moors watching the drama.
When it comes to writing songs inspired by Greek Mythology, the likes of Nick Cave, Scott Walker, and...err, Iron Maiden can only manage to come up with just one per album, 'The Eternal Rocks Beneath' has two! Firstly, 'Icarus' is a warning to a departing partner ('...You're holding the match to your own funeral pyre'), with Mikey Kenney's sorrowful fiddle playing adding to the lament.
The second slice of mythology is 'Eurydice'. A song that takes that journey from the underworld as a metaphor for those moments when you no longer know whether a partner is emotionally present or not. It's the most adventurous moment on the album, eschewing familiar folk motifs in favour of sonically darker and cinematic textures inspired by Radiohead's 'Nude.'
One of the other surprises here is the touching ‘The Spring Never Came’ a soft chanson, with an accompanying accordion that feels delightfully Parisian. Elsewhere, the quietly atmospheric 'Ring O' Roses' (originally released in 2018), is tinged with the dread that the plague warning rhyme initially had. And it may be just me, but I can really see those Unthank sisters having a go at covering this one.
Finally, the melancholy passing of the seasons is beautifully captured on 'The Summer Has Flown' (cue, the return of Mikey Kenney's fiddle), and as the song fades out, the sound of birdsong returns, the album ends as it starts. The eternal cycle of the seasons, the eternal rocks beneath.
And as with those classics from half a century ago attest, and what Priddy offers here, the eternal delight of great, great songs.
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