Jack White’s Third Man cottage industry has produced a bit of a mixed bag of releases in 2009, with the highlight thus far (of those I’ve heard, anyhow) being his own solo seven-inch, “Fly Farm Blues”. The whole disdain he seems to have for standard record company practise, the sense that decisions are made on a creative whim, is really admirable. But it can’t hide the fact that singles by, say, a local gospel group, Transit, haven’t been hugely compelling.

Jack White’s Third Man cottage industry has produced a bit of a mixed bag of releases in 2009, with the highlight thus far (of those I’ve heard, anyhow) being his own solo seven-inch, “Fly Farm Blues”. The whole disdain he seems to have for standard record company practise, the sense that decisions are made on a creative whim, is really admirable. But it can’t hide the fact that singles by, say, a local gospel group, Transit, haven’t been hugely compelling.



A new one, though, ups the ante somewhat. It’s by Smoke Fairies, a folkish duo from Sussex consisting of Jessica Davies and Katherine Blamire who’ve previously made some decent if not exceptional singles in the UK. “Gastown” and its flip, “The River Song” are superb, however; produced by White and featuring himself plus Jack Lawrence from The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather on bass.

I suspect I may be over-fixating on White’s involvement, here, but it does feel like he’s steered the Smoke Fairies towards something that really transcends their previous work; most obviously, there’s a brief, incongruous, thrillingly fiendish electric solo at the death of the ghostly, medieval “The River Song” which reeks of the man.

“Gastown” is the real keeper, though, a solemn, rather plummily-sung piece of swirlingly ethereal folk which periodically moves into a bumpy gallop (a rustic motorik, maybe?), propelled by White behind the kit, that recalls to some degree the Fairport Convention take on “Matty Groves” (I now have my own copy of the Vampire Weekend album, incidentally, with their unlikely “Matty Groves” crib, that I’ll blog about in the next few days).

White’s approached this area before, very nearly: I think I referenced the Fairports with regard to “Old Enough” on the Raconteurs’ very underrated “Consolers Of The Lonely”. But these are terrific. Check out the previews on the Smoke Fairies’ Myspace, and let me know, as ever, what you think.