Molly's a charismatic young singer and fiddle player from Cheshire, who's currently based in Sheffield. I was pointed in her direction with a firm recommendation early last year, and I tried (unsuccessfully) to get hold of her eponymous debut EP, which demonstrated her winning way with a traditional ballad as well as her skill at singing unaccompanied, also benefitting from the musicianship of Jack Rutter and Danny Pedlar.
Fast-forward a year or so, and Molly's new EP takes a different tack, in that it's a special project in the shape of a collection of original songs texturally and melodically inspired by the English folk song tradition and directly based on the folklore work of Cheshire writer Alan Garner. Molly's a really impressive singer, strong and assured in both tone and phrasing, and possesses a real gift for idiomatically adapting Garner's special linguistic achievements at the service of retelling his stories. She fully takes on board Garner's dictum to "recreate the moment of the telling, so that the printed word may sing", and her original settings of Garner's work truly carry the spirit and enterprise of Garner's invention. This EP differs from its predecessor in that there's not a fiddle in earshot - Molly confines herself to the duet concertina; she's joined once again by Jack Rutter (variously on guitars, bouzouki, banjo and another duet concertina) and additionally by Archie Churchill-Moss (on melodeon).
Two of the six tracks have their source in traditional poems: Bryer And Bonfire occurs in Garner's book The Guizer, whereas the chorus of the darkly supernatural Woe Is Me comes from a poem collected by Garner. His own writing forms the basis for the remaining four tracks - in the main, retelling "strange and true" old legends (Gobbleknoll, Maggoty's Wood, Yallery Brown). Molly's stirring setting of Garner's own poem Mist (expressing the constancy of natural forces) put me much in mind of Anna Shannon, another highly creative lady with a superbly strong voice and a great gift for writing in the tradition. Molly's singing throughout is highly compelling, with brilliantly clear enunciation and unerringly pitched, and her delivery truly reflects the primal power of the texts. And in all cases, the tunes are highly memorable - they're Molly's own, but one might swear they're traditional…!
The enormous care with which Molly prepares and presents her material is reflected in Andy Bell's fabulous production, where the stunning clarity of her voice is mirrored by the depth and detail of the accompaniments. Yes, EP of the year so far, for definite.
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