Sarah Birch : The Ballad of Peter and Jane
Death Monkey Records
This is the debut solo album from Swansea's own Sarah Birch, otherwise known as the singer songwriter of Lost Tuesday Society – one of the big names on the Swansea scene; they're also massive in the Russian Federation, don't you know?
As you'd expect, the songs are well crafted and expertly played, the production atmosphericly shimmering and the whole thing rather mesmerising. Sarah's alt folk songwriting manages to combine just enough contemporary nous with a respect for more traditional folk forms to keep the record relevant and exciting. Her stunning vocals and the lush strings of the Mavron quartet work powerfully together to showcase her thoughtful talent, while the occasional experimentations with almost unexpected electronica create a subversive cutting edge.
This is a record for those who like their folk contemporaneous, relevant, beautiful and now.
Available on vinyl and CD and download now.
A review by Roger Henderson for Sound Board Magazine
Those of you who have heard of Lost Tuesday Society will have heard Sarah sing before. For those that haven't, let me tell you she has a very pure, high almost ethereal voice. This is her first solo album and entirely her own work. Fortunately, the sleeve comes with a lyric sheet and these words would pass for poetry in their own right.The songs are mostly poignant stories about subtle relationship issues, displaying great insight by the writer.
Be warned! This album is like the TARDIS - there is more in it than you expected. Some of the songs are accompanied by a string quartet, supporting softly and beautifully, while not distracting from the overall thread of the work. I liked these songs in their original, simple stripped-back format, so I was a bit concerned in case they had strayed off message during the recording process. I needn't have worried. Producer Dave Milsom has achieved a wonderful seamless blend between all contributors and kept it all on track.
Each song is a careful crafted piece of work and very different but every one worthy of attention. However, I must mention in isolation.
All in the Eyes is in a waltz time and shows the folk inspired origins of some of this work. The soaring background vocals and harmonies are a treasure. True music is a product of skill, care and attention and this has not been lacking here.
I have heard Lay Me Down live, complete with guitars so this new acappella version took me by surprise but it is VERY good. Sometime i the distant future, when we are al dead, people will sit round campfires and sing this song in the darkness, thinking ( incorrectly) that it is a folk song. It has that feel, with a sing a long chorus that is cheery but profound with a sad-but-true tale attached but this is an original song! Wonderful.
In my opinion the song of the album is Mirtazapine. The enigmatic story is wrapped up in a beautiful exaltation of a song, the feel of which reminds me of 'Across the Universe' Nice.
Reverence is a massive mysterious song, reminiscent of Martha's Harbour by all about eve and exudes the same musical class.
The final song and title track 'The ballad of Peter and Jane' is slow and has very little instrumentation but, at the same time, has tremendous weight. To me, its like the tide coming in, slow and powerful and irrepressible.
All in all, a fine body of work, entertaining, thought-provoking, beautiful.