Folk music has taken great strides forward in recent years, and the contemporary blending of folk with ambient, electronic and indie music has opened up the genre to whole new and younger audiences. But as much as moving forward and evolving in any genre is important, so too is remembering where you came from.
Lewis Barfoot’s debut album, Glenaphuca, is the sound of a modern artist keeping more traditional styles alive but doing so in a way that remains accessible and exciting for the modern listener. In the same way that the likes of Seth Lakeman, Julie Fowlis and Kate Rusby made modern music by planting and nurturing ancient seeds, so Lewis Barfoot carries a similar sonic banner.
Opening with Fisherman, we are immediately immersed in crystalline vocals, ethereal washes and, meandering and melodic folk-fiddles. And as the song progresses, it seems to cross boundaries of culture and age, drifting from seductive modern tones into a gentle Gaelic jig. Sweet Dreams is a gorgeous and spacious lullaby musing on the afterlife and its connection with the land of the living and The Fox is an upbeat slice of traditional sing-along.
But amongst the more structured tunes, there are beguiling pieces such as Amhrán Fosuíochta, an Irish herding song forged from evocative, dancing vocals, simple fiddle melodies and droning soundscapes.
Some of the songs found on Glenaphuca have seen the light of day before but it is great to finally have them collected all in one place. It is an album that covers a lot of ground. From folk traditions to modern creations, from original sparks of brilliance to re-workings of the folk canon, from structured song to ethereal moods. And at the heart of each are the gorgeous, crystal-clear and often otherworldly vocals of Lewis Barfoot.
I’m not saying that I could listen to her singing the telephone directory but I’d certainly be up for her rendition of the Pobble O’Keefe land census of 1830!