Obligatory not very good picture as I have a crap camera.
Not one to judge books by their covers but in my last review I started with the packaging and I may as well with this one too. It’s a rather lovely cover isn’t it? Ironically it’s quite a LIGHT wood, but very artfully done.
I was provided with a press release along with this but now that I’ve come to do the review I can’t find it. Seem to be losing stuff quite a bit lately. I’ll soldier on regardless though!
For those of you not in the know, Abagail Grey is a them and a her. The her is Claire Campbell, so occasionally it may be a solo outfit, multi instrumentalist and singer (and writer, both of songs and this rather entertaining and sometimes nutty in a good way blog). She is sometimes joined by up to four other people, actually more than that on the EP.
This is far from their first release btw, and she’s galavanted all over the joint performing BUT this isn’t a band profile it’s an EP review.
Things kick off with title track Dark Wood, a builder of a tune. With some solo piano and Claire singing before some strings kick in towards the end of the chorus, then some full band action kicking in. Mellowly kicking in mind. This is a relaxing affair. It acts as a gentle lead in giving the impression of a spot light that slowly expands to bring everyone in. It’s a tune of longing and loss, though not as sad as that sounds. The EP is dedicated and about her Auntie Trish who sadly died of leukemia. It’ll probably speak to anyone who has suffered a loss, wanting that bit more time.
Water starts a lot more upbeat and is a faster paced tune. All souring strings, steady percusion and tinkling piano motifs. It’s understandable that it’s more upbeat as it’s of a more hopeful thought, a perfect place where people wait for their loved ones on the other side. I love the tune itself BUT I think Claire may be singing slightly too high on this one
Shoes is another upbeat one. I’m a visual guy so I tend to picture videos for tunes in my head. Like I say, I’ve miss placed the press release but what I see is that this song is actually from Auntie’s perspective and she’s singing it to her young neice. I could be well off obviously. It’s relatively simplistic, kind of a Disney number if you will (old Disney). A happy little tune with light percussion and bass, deceptively simple sounding piano and some souring violin (I THINK, I could be miss hearing strings) following the piano motif and adding some flourish around it. It very charming and brought a smile to my face (any song with clippy clop in the lyrics will probably do that).
Flame, the last song on the EP, brings things down in pace and register. It’s a duet with Derek Urquhart, and feels like a closing. Lyrically it sounds like it takes some of the themes of the first two and uses them to emphasise letting go. It ends on a bit of a bitter note, but again more of a stages of grief kind of thing that shows the emotions brought on by the loss. It’s quite a simplistic tune, everything more or less repeats throughout. It stands out from the others quite dramatically, partly due to being a duet and partly down to being less flourishy than the others.
Over all it’s a damned fine EP. Bar me thinking she’s maybe gone a bit high on Water at points, Claire has a lovely voice. The piano/keys throughout are lovely, as are the strings, both giving flourishes and setting the pace of the songs. Structurally they’re all sound, no jarring changes of pace, clever builds. Knowing some back story helps nail what the songs are about, but without it they all still work. I’m sure I may have miss read some things and others will too. I expect quite a few people will think Dark Wood spoke to them because of a break up for example.
If I have one other complaint, it’s this. It’s too short. On my last listen through it ended and I went “Wait, that’s it?”. Best complaint an artist can get, I wanted more. And it’s also somewhat fitting given the subject matter.
I may be a little out of place saying this as I didn’t know her, and say the word Claire and this paragraph is gone, but I think Auntie Trish would be very proud and that this is a lovely tribute to her.
You can get yourself a copy of Dark Wood here and it’s out on the 30th. Go buy one before they run out!