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Album: Shirley Collins - Heart’s Ease | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Shirley Collins - Heart’s Ease

Album: Shirley Collins - Heart’s Ease

After comeback album ‘Lodestar’, English folk’s prime voice is composed and contemplative

Shirley Collins's 'Heart’s Ease' suggests she does not wish to be defined by her history

Heart’s Ease is about more than the music. Through its songs, it also chronicles a life lived. Shirley Collins learnt “Barbara Allen” at school. She first encountered “The Christmas Song” when it was sung by her early influence and inspiration The Copper Family. “Merry Golden Tree” was originally heard in 1959, in Arkansas.

One song takes lyrics by her former husband, Austin John Marshall, and sets them to music. “Sweet Blues and Greens” draws from her 1964 collaboration with Davy Graham for the Folk Roots, New Routes album. “Locked in Ice” interprets a composition by her late nephew Buz Collins, the son of her sister Dolly, who she also lost.

However, the album concludes by entering a new world. “Crowlink” melds white-noise synthesiser, droning hurdy-gurdy, harmonium and recordings of birds and the wash of the ocean to create a discomfiting underpinning for Collins’s voice. Disembodied and distant, she sings only a few lines: about a ship travelling endlessly on a velvet sea. Although unlike anything else she has recorded before, its atmospheric kinship is with the most intense tracks she and Dolly made together.

By ending Heart’s Ease so surprisingly, Collins suggests she does not wish to be wholly defined by her history as the foremost exponent of England’s vocal folk tradition. Furthermore Heart’s Ease is less freighted with import than her last album, 2016’s comparatively darker Lodestar. Her first since 1978, it was made when she recovered her voice after suffering dysphonia, a condition which rendered her unable to sing. In contrast to Lodestar, she sounds more relaxed – recording in a studio this time rather than her home – than four years ago. Indeed, Shirley Collins’s heart would now appear to be at ease.

‘Heart’s Ease’ ends surprisingly, with the foremost exponent of England’s vocal folk tradition in a new world


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