sun 15/12/2019

CD: Laura Marling - Once I Was an Eagle | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Laura Marling - Once I Was an Eagle

CD: Laura Marling - Once I Was an Eagle

Prolific young songwriter releases her 'Blonde on Blonde'

A soft, sprawling thing: Laura Marling's 'Once I Was an Eagle'

I suppose that whether Once I Was An Eagle appeals may depend on whether you consider "underwhelming" a synonym for "disappointing". It's the word that surfaces most, the more I listen to the fourth album from newly Los Angeles-resident Laura Marling; but I use it to conjure the lack of flashiness, of anything overpowering about the record rather than for its negative connotations.

Neither respect nor acclaim for the young songwriter has ever faltered, even in those circles where those she once performed and socialised with have become the butt of jokes. From album to album her songwriting has become more ornate, less direct. Drawn as I originally was to the simplicity of those early melodies and the clarity of her lyrics, I've found the more fantastical imagery of recent years difficult to connect with. But for the eagle-eared, to turn a phrase, barbs dedicated to "freewheeling troubadours" who "took my mind off the scene" hint at something a little more personal this time around.

Once I Was an Eagle is a soft, sprawling thing; particularly across its opening four-track run. Recorded in a single take, the songs bleed into each other to form a single suite linked by the same chords and distinguished when their titles become lyrical themes. Sixteen songs in length, it conjures the double albums of the old vinyl (pre-revival) days – structurally, yes; but just also in Marling's cracked, husky voice that seems to grow more timeless with every record. It's her Blonde on Blonde, the longer suites and the chords that she returns to providing the thematic links even as songs like the strident "Master Hunter" and sweeter, Americana-influenced "Where Can I Go" stand alone. Perhaps the former track's nods to Dylan make putting her forward as his true heir (because why should all the young songwriters heralded as the next Dylan be male, anyway?) a little too obvious, but nonetheless apt.

Listen to "Master Hunter" below


Why should all the young songwriters heralded as the next Dylan be male?

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