Mary Epworth – Dream Life – album review

Mary Epworth: Dream Life (Hand of Glory)
CD / DL / LP
Available 18 June 2012

The debut from singer/songwriter Mary Epworth sends shivers through your soul with a beguiling mix of English folk, prog rock and experimentalism.

It is rare that an album can sound so utterly polished and precise while retaining a sense of space, magic and naturalness. It is even rarer to find this in a debut.

But in conjuring Dream Life Mary Epworth has done just that; a collection of complicated layers drawing from varied influences to create a complete, compelling, sound. Even more astonishing is that she has done it without it ever sounding contrived.

The first 30 seconds of album opener Long Gone present a pleasant folk lull but then a flair of trumpets launch into something jubilant, something deeper, something to make the heart beat a little quicker in anticipation. The rolling drums and defiant vocal set the scene, take your hand and begin to lead you down the rabbit hole and into a melodic wonderland.

There is a change of pace with Black Doe. A stomping fuzz topped with a gentle vocal which swirls around you and lifts the soul.

Two for Joy seduces with earthiness while Heal this Dirty Soul soars and builds to am erie but irritable crescendo. Mary begins to sound rather the evolution of darker balladeers and experimentalists. This is PJ Harvey, Nike Drake, Todd Rundgren

And so a nod to the production of this album. Working with partner Will Twynam, with who she co-owns her label Hand of Glory, they have together lifted this album beyond the excellent songwriting and taken the sound to another level.

Taking inspiration from influences including ’60s girl groups, soul harmonies, surf pop and even prog rock these are songs in the finest English pastoral tradition filtered through psychedelia and folk.

They have honed each sound precisely to fit it’s gap: a solid but echoing military beat backing Trimmed Wing; the delight of brass flourishes and distant rolling synths in Six Kisses ; a swarm of studio swoops and dives in the bliss of If I Fall Now.

Despite the onslaught of sounds and techniques the album retains a sense of open air, endless skies, and of nature surrounding you, embracing you. It is warm and welcoming, as loving as it is lovely.

A magical, atmospheric, debut from one of our most promising singer / songwriters.

All words by Sarah Lay. You can read more from Sarah on LTW here, on her blog or follow her on Twitter.

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