Though Zoe Mulford be folk, nailing down her various sides is not as easy as one would think. There is the standard Americana influence alongside that of traditional British and Irish music, but she throws a variety of other influences into the pot to, as she says in one of her songs, "give my soup more taste". And tasty, it is.
For instance, Mulford recreates the feel of the mid- to late-60s New York folk scene with the Randy Burns-like Those Boys and Stone Song, tracks which would easily have fit on Burns' fine and overlooked ESP-Disk efforts. Odd chord changes and sparse production add to the lyric picture of two growing everyboys who await their future on the former, a very Randy Burns chord progression giving nod to Gypsy culture on the second. Contemplative, they are music filtered through layers of slow flowing culture..
The Angel in the Storm has a feel which gets under your skin and you end up with strains echoing on your head at the oddest moments, loving the sound even when you're not sure who it is. Listen for the acoustic guitar and what I assume is the walkabout dulcimer (which sounds a bit like a mandolin, but not quite). A great sound.
The Asleep At the Wheel-like Gone Is Gone would be an aberration if not for Mulford's restrained vocals and the band's light, bouncy backup. Even the solos are restrained, John Jennings' piano and Pat Wictor's dobro adding to rather than overcoming a very pleasant song.
Mulford pulls out the banjo on Nobody Knocking and plucks a great rhythm beneath Wictor's moaning slide and Rosie Shipley's fine fiddle. The result is a Shady Grove without the steroids and is one of the stronger tracks over all.
A bit of the Jollye Olde slips into Elegy (Crystal Glass), the fiddle giving it a bit of a Fairport Convention touch. Very nicely done.
Our Lady of the Highways sounds a little like Hem, the lap steel lonesome and eery behind a beautifully crafted melody.
Mulford has her standard folk side as well. Blues For Two is folk blues of quality, though nothing new. She cleans out her fridge to make stock in the light-hearted Stock, a process she likens to songwriting and/or art. Gonna Wear Red is light and poppy and actually pretty catchy with a Herman's Hermits style guitar riff thrown in for good measure. She leans toward Ireland with The American Wake, based on an odd practice of throwing a wake for relatives leaving for America during the Great Potato Famine.
Mulford saved the oddest for last, at least in terms of theme. The Earth &mmp; the Sky sounds like something Rodgers and Hammerstein might have written for Oklahoma but tossed aside at the last moment. Sparse piano and fiddle give the written-for-the-stage sound authenticity, if that even be what she had in mind. An anti-climactic but fitting end.
I make it a point to not visit websites of musicians whose work I review before the review is written. I had to hold myself back on this one. Mulford's inclusion of Pat Wictor, a dobro and lap steel player who is gaining quite the reputation (and deservedly, I might add), makes me think there is something there I need to see. I am heading there as soon as this is finished. You should, too. She is well worth checking out.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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