The Fabric of Folk sees the meeting of two different generations of British Isles folk music. Singer Alison O’Donnell was a member of Irish folk group Mellow Candle, whose one and only album Swaddling Songs was released back in 1972. But Mellow Candle are now revered amongst the swelling ranks of wyrd folk fans (and ‘Sheep Season’ was included on Castle Records’ indispensable Early Morning Hush compilation of UK acid folk back in 2006.) Steven Collins of The Owl Service is one of those fans, and after finding Alison O’Donnell on MySpace in 2007, it was only a matter of time before the two musicians made a record together.
This mini-album contains just five tracks: two originals, two traditional songs, and an instrumental. ‘The Wooden Coat’s is a dolorous opener, hovering mostly around one minor chord, with occasional sitar drones low in the mix, and embellished with uilleann pipes. ‘William & Earl Richard’s Daughter’ is a mid-tempo track with overdriven electric guitar and rock rhythm section, garnished with spirited fiddle playing from Charlie Skelton. ‘Flodden Field’ is an old narrative ballad about the bloody Battle of Flodden in 1513, where over 10,000 Scots (including King James IV) died attempting to invade England. The upbeat sound of this track belies the sad nature of the events described. ‘Scarlet Threads & Silver Needles’ is a delicate instrumental with plucked guitars, Celtic harp, glockenspiel, organ, etc creating a dreamy, childlike atmosphere. The album closes with the ‘The Fabric of Life’ a suitably ruminative song about the circular nature of life, which has more than a hint of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ to it.
My only complaint is, why is this record so short? Alison, Steven – please get back into the studio and give us a full-length LP…!