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CD: Josephine Foster - Faithful Fairy Harmony | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Josephine Foster - Faithful Fairy Harmony

CD: Josephine Foster - Faithful Fairy Harmony

Country-folk auteur tunes in to the ether

'Faithful Fairy Harmony': a beautiful and oblique song cycle

Faithful Fairy Harmony is in the tradition of The Beatles’ White Album, Todd Rundgren’s A Wizard, a True Star and The Clash’s London Calling, all double albums because an outpouring of songs couldn’t be stemmed. Also like these, Josephine Foster’s 18-track double-set plays with listener expectations. Though she doesn’t tackle musique concrète like The Beatles, soul like Rundgren or jazz like The Clash, Foster disrupts notions of how she is perceived: in her case as a country-folk stylist. The pedal-steel-driven country flow of “Force Divine” is subverted by twangy surf guitar and some string mangling which could have flown in from a Billy Childish record. On “Benevolent Spring”, she harmonises with herself in a voice which may as well be a Theremin.

It’s that voice which immediately characterises Faithful Fairy Harmony. Foster has frequently reconfigured her singing and this time round she’s a keening Appalachian wraith – draw a line between John Jacob Niles and Ed Askew, lower the pitch a little, and that’s almost it. On the lullaby-esque “Eternity”, it’s as if she’s singing from beyond the grave with a voice which wavers and wobbles like a flickering flame. On album opener “Soothsayer Song”, she channels one of the ghosts accompanying the angel in the sleeve image.

The instrumentation and a deft, hazy production suggest this music was plucked from the air in the way Electronic Voice Phenomenon captures etheric dialogue. The pedal steel, an autoharp, cello, echoing piano and roller-rink organ co-mingle to further the sense of asymmetry. Two songs stand out: “Lord of Love”, which is even more affecting than Winding Sheet Mark Lanegan, and the sublime “The Peak of Paradise”.

This beautiful and oblique song cycle seems to be about birth and a subsequent ecstatic ascension to heaven. With Faithful Fairy Harmony, Foster has become the Twilight Zone Emmylou Harris. Or Jandek were he channelling early Jean Ritchie. This is the work of an auteur at the peak of her powers.

This is the work of an auteur at the peak of their powers

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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