Should you be unaccountably longing for the elder days—well, the 60s/70s "elder" days of Steve Ashley, Richard Thompson, Pentangle, etc.—but also find yourself affinitive of Leigh Gregory (here) and other Byronesque moderns, curious just what might cure what ails ya in that regard, then Stories for Emily is the pharmaceutical you're seeking. Philip Butler and Natasha Tranter have created a chambered Renaissance-era disc as hoary as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner while crisply injecting occasional subtle rock modes (Emily, Where Have You Gone?) to keep matters fresh and vital as counterpoint to frequently drear atmospheres—'drear', that is, in the manner of Poe and Plath, shot with beauty of a different order.
Tranter sometimes sings behind her duetmate and wields a forlorn accordion all the more quietly powerful for its subdued nature, and Butler possesses a plaintive voice, accompanying himself with a Fahey-ish stark guitar that stretches the dolorous vistas of his tone even further. You're not going to get a moment's exuberance of ecstasy, that wasn't in the cards; instead, settle in for tales of woe at sea, on land, and in the air. I hope the Emily these yarns were crafted for has a constitution of steel, 'cause Sesame Street this ain't. Adults, however, beings hopefully well accustomed to tragedy and bitter disappointment, will find much to reflect upon…albeit suicidally. Thus, our dearest Emily must be of Edward Gorey and Syd Barrett vintage.
The base duet wisely chose a knowing set of accompanying musicians for that good ol' kinda creepy quiet small orchestra feel, as well as an outstanding engineer (not credited in the promo lit, but very impressive), all subdued, morticians to the affair, but more than knowledgeable of their task, executing with consummate grace and aplomb, eternally opening the casket for your viewing pleasure. I received the promo edition of the disc—quite nice in its simple beauty—but the regular release is an extravagant affair, a multi-artistic venture in a fabric-covered book indited with lyrics, photos, artwork, and the disc itself. Had they sent that highly attractive edition out as promos, Butler & Tranter would presently be broke, in the streets, and on the dole, so I suggest you grab a copy quickly, as it's understandably a very limited item and can't help but appeal as both art-piece and collector's item. Otherwise, you'll have to settle for a download once it sells out (and it will).
Don't think about it too long.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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