Elle Osborne: “Good Grief”

Happy new year: I trust everyone had some kind of decent break. I read Robert Byron on Tibet (for climatic context, possibly), watched Robinson In Ruins, played a fair bit of Pharoah Sanders and The Watersons, and rediscovered that a body clock wrecked by parenthood can be very useful during an Ashes series.

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Happy new year: I trust everyone had some kind of decent break. I read Robert Byron on Tibet (for climatic context, possibly), watched Robinson In Ruins, played a fair bit of Pharoah Sanders and The Watersons, and rediscovered that a body clock wrecked by parenthood can be very useful during an Ashes series.



I was also introduced by another music journalist to a newish British folk singer called Elle Osborne. Osborne has an EP, “Good Grief”, coming out this month, and the press release that comes with it presents her as pretty appealing: a quote from Alex Neilson pitching her as a cross between Lal Waterson and Nico; some connection with Barry Dransfield; support dates with Alasdair Roberts, James Yorkston and Cath & Phil Tyler (I really must get hold of more stuff by that last duo, incidentally).

As the Nico/Waterson allusion suggests, “Good Grief” is quite an austere listen, and there’s a sense that Osborne is drawing lines between the drones and atmospheres of the avant-garde and their ancient antecedents in the British folk tradition. Mostly, though, the four songs here put the focus squarely on her quavering, earthy voice; “The Time Of The Small Sun” features little more than a harmony vocal, some found sounds of children in the distance, and lapping water.

Like a good few of Roberts’ records (perhaps “No Earthly Man”, a personal favourite, in particular), Osborne is exceptionally good at making unadorned traditional music sound new and otherworldly; the hovering drones and faintly unnerving birdsong of “The Boatman” being especially potent. I’d say her voice reminds me of Anne Briggs as much as Lal Waterson, but this one’s a good start to 2011.

The label “Good Grief” comes on, Folk Police, appears to have some other good stuff lined up, including a new Bob Pegg album. In the meantime, I’ll push on with working out a chart from your favourite albums of 2010 submissions, and post it tomorrow, all being well.

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