This double CD compilation by England’s Smoke Fairies – Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies – is a delightful gathering of early material. Rich with harmonies, guitars, melody and nods towards the great British folk traditions – think Pentangle, Incredible String Band, Nick Drake. However, there is also a definite American influence as well with some country-oriented tunes and arrangements. A broad span indeed and a lot to choose from and savor.
There is no shortage of melody and structure in these songs. Some pastoral; some melancholy; some light and breezy – it’s all here and in very tasty order. “Sunshine” opens the album with a subdued melody and immediately gripping vocals; “When I Grow Old” incorporates tasteful slide guitar and “Living With Ghosts” has that swampy-feel that I’m a fan of. “Frozen Heart”‘s slide and rhythmic pattern reminds me at moments of Beefheart as his most melodic and Richard Thompson (think “Peppermint Rock”). “He’s Moving On” carries a violin-laced melody; “The Water Waits” (my personal favorite from this collection) moves along with warmth; “I Get So Lonely” is pure country and “The Road Is Long” chugs along – a perfect highway song.
All in all, 18 tracks, filled with quality. A fine collection.