Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou - Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou

by Al Brown Rating:7 Release Date:2010-03-15

The word 'folk' confers an unbeatable air of authenticity on your music, which is probably why Mumford and Sons, Johnny Flynn, and countless other London whippersnappers cling to it like the last life-raft off the Titanic. But what does folk actually mean? Does acquiring a west-country accent and overdubbing some banjo make you folk? Must you sing about the big issues: life, death, suffering? I don't think so. I think anyone using the moniker should simply strive to be truthful to themselves and their surroundings. It should be musically and lyrically unpretentious yet evocative; most of all it should be honest.

Honesty is what I like about this album. The voices are unaffected: Trevor Moss is nasal, southern (English), occasionally soaring but usually the steadfast wooden post around which Hannah-Lou flutters prettily. Hannah-Lou has one of those clear, delicate voices that seems like it's about to disappear into the ether, like one of the McGarragle sisters or Emmy the Great. The songs here deal in minutiae rather than the big issues: the opener is a rather twee paean to allotment gardening and there's a line about tomatoes ("tommies") that made me gag a little, but the lightness and optimism wins through as a whole; "And I for one cannot wait for the spring" is a sentiment we can all get behind at this time of year. I like the mixture of the more traditional folk subjects (the countryside, Englishness, drinking) with modern references - one of the songs is a tribute to Concorde ("Smooth as silk like a bird of prey/And the sound of a thousand freight trains).

The music is largely acoustic guitar-based, complemented tastefully with banjo, harmonica, flute and basic percussion. There's nothing here that Bob Dylan didn't do forty years ago; 'Standing Down' in particular sounds alot like 'The Times They Are A Changin', but it's well done all the same. There is not alot of variation either - don't expect these songs explode into some life-affirming technicolour anthem - you're not listening to the Arcade Fire. It would be nice though, to hear more changes in tempo and volume, a song that builds to a climax maybe: just to see if they could do it. Of course these things should be used sparingly: we don't need more of the empty bombast that defines bands like Mumford and Sons. And anyway it does satisfy in its own quiet way: I just spent a sleepy train journey leant against the window with Trevor's voice in one ear and Hannah-Lou's in the other and I can't recommend it enough for that situation.

Too much folk (or folk influenced) music is disingenuous: either the shallow nu-folk bandwagon mentioned earlier or some phoney attempt at authenticity: all maypoles and gallows when the author lives in Milton Keynes. To find an album that commits neither of these crimes is a cause for minor celebration in itself.

Alistair Brown

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