thu 20/01/2022

Albums of the Year 2021: Katherine Priddy - The Eternal Rocks Beneath | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year 2021: Katherine Priddy - The Eternal Rocks Beneath

Albums of the Year 2021: Katherine Priddy - The Eternal Rocks Beneath

A striking debut leads the pack through a second long year of pandemic

Katherine Priddy’s debut album came out in the summer, and it’s remained a high point for the rest of the year as 2021 plays out to the sombre drums and drones of resurgent pandemic warnings, fresh lockdowns, closed venues, silenced auditoriums. Her last gig of the year was at St Pancras Old Church on 16th December.

I intended to be there, but Omicron infection rates ballooned to the point that going anywhere seemed no longer possible. Hello, and goodbye, to 2021.

So I’m here at home again, hunkering down, listening to the songs from The Eternal Rocks Beneath, astonished again at their maturity and insight, the memorability of the imagery, and the assurance and capability of her performances. Check out her new video for the song “Eurydice”, its stern message of Don’t Look Back flashing like a warning sign at the mouth of the darkest cave, the song stacked with big choruses and an epic, big-ballad reach as she finds and brings out the compelling human story embedded within the myth.

Despite this second long year of pandemic, folk music had a strong showing in terms of album releases, with the return of Spell Songs, featuring a range of Scottish folk talents (Karine Polwart, Julie Fowlis, Kris Drever among them) and Seckou Keita setting Robert MacFarlane’s poems to music. Rhythms of Migration includes Seckou’s musical partner, harpist Catrin Finch, among an instrumental line up creating this compelling musical journey, while among the duos, Seckou Keita reunited with Cuban pianist Omar Sosa for the mellifluous lockdown collaboration Suba, Hannah James and Toby Kuhn delivered beguiling instrumental magic on Sleeping Spirals, and Boden got it together with Spiers to renew their acquaintance for Fallow Ground.

As for the solo highlights, Piers Faccini’s Shapes of the Fall was packed with intensity and variety, Josienne Clarke’s A Small Unknowable Thing excelled in condensed candour, arttistic assertion and gleefully scuzzy electric guitar, and Irish folk welcomed a distinct new talent in John Francis Flynn, whose debut, I Would Not Live Always, is on the excellent River Lea imprint on Rough Trade.

Two More Essential Albums of 2021

Spell Songs II – Various artists

Suba – Omar Sosa and Seckou Keita

Musical Experiences of the Year

Bob Dylan’s Shadow Kingdom. A noir, monochrome setting from director Alma Har’el for the Bard of Hibbing’s re-visioning of songs from across his career, appearing then disappearing forever like a bubble of hallucinogenic poetic gas on the internet.

Justin Adams and Mauro Durante, The Green Note, London Monday, 25 October. A brilliant, intimate showcase for Still Moving, from the stellar British guitarist and instrumental king-pin of southern Italy’s Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino.

Track of the Year

The chorus of Abba's 'Keep an Eye on Dan' is still going around my head.

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