Most music has at least a small nostalgic thread running through its core. How can it not, being that music is made through standing on the shoulders of giants. And if nostalgia is your thing, then it is easy to pick up on some gorgeous sonic blends of 70’s English folk revival and lush Laurel Canyon haze, rustic, acoustic charm and Celtic cool at work on Jane Allison’s latest album. But rather than seeing things in terms of nostalgia or of leaning on past glories, I prefer to see the sonic addictions at work here more in terms of taste. Tastefulness never goes out of fashion and Like Magdelene is a very tasteful album indeed.
Folk-rock always seems a term that comes with a lot of baggage but Like Magdalene is an album forged largely out of these too generic building blocks, the former supplying the deftness and delicacy, the latter the weight and groove, both playing off each other as required to shape the songs.
It is an album able to shift between the pastoral lilt of High Road and the upbeat Americana of Like Magdalene, a song which I have mentioned before, and will do so again, that reminds me of 10,000 Maniacs, which can only be a good thing. Right? Right!
Banks of the Landwehrkanal is an understated, slice of acoustica that opens out into a gently swaying, sweet and swaggering piece of Berlin-blues and Kreuzberg kool, Shower of Stars is what I imagine Jefferson Airplane would have sounded like if that had been from this side of the water and had favoured red wine over psychotropic drugs and Kiss of Peace is a charming and chiming, gossamer-light piece of ambient folk.
Yes, you can look for past references if you like, I have, after all, but Like Magdalene, is also the sound of now, the sound of traditional folk sonics being coaxed into new shapes, of rock and indie and blues, and even pop sensibilities, being added to the mix. Yes, it is a generic experiment that may have started in the hippy hangouts of the Americana West Coast or the folk clubs above London pubs in the ’60s but it is a process that is still going strong today. And on the strength of Like Magdelene, it is a creative, alchemic process that is more than capable of turning those base musical elements into sonic gold.