Fine English Americana from a substantial storytelling talent. It’s quite a testament to the mature songcraft of Angie Palmer that 30 seconds into Fool’s Gold, the first of these tales of light and darkness, she has you engrossed in her characters like an expert novelist. The track has an irresistible snap to it, perfectly blending acoustic and electric ingredients around a story of Dylanesque proportions in which you simply have to find out what happens next.
We don’t have a British equivalent of the word Americana, but this already seasoned singer-songwriter from Manchester exudes a convincing fluency in the style that’s rare among home grown performers. This is the fourth album by a woman who was busking around Europe at 18 and whose road miles have invested her measured, unhurried songs with depth and authenticity, further fuelled by literary inspirations from the likes of Steinbeck and Poe. The scent of folk, blues and country influences are always in the air, but the fragrance is peculiarly Palmer’s.
Paul Sexton, July 2006
With her throaty voice sounding like Beth Orton’s tougher big sister, Angie Palmer’s second album has lots of impact. It’s hard to square the very American sound with a girl from Preston, but she is nevertheless utterly convincing. Steve Buckley’s slide guitar bubbles away giving the songs a real charge and excellent fiddle work abounds as well, but it’s Palmer’s voice and lyrics that really grab you. Rare in this world of introspective singer songwriters, Palmer has a truly narrative style, at times recalling Dylan, and consummately literate. Her voice, world weary yet full of fire, delivers these with impressive conviction throughout suggesting that she must be a powerful live performer as well.
If there is a weakness here it’s that the melody is sometimes neglected, but as a rule the force of Palmer’s voice and the intimate yet punchy production carry these songs through anyway. The beautiful “Ravens” is a real exception to this mild ctiticism, haunting and memorable, with great impact, and regardless KT Tunstall has already shown that the British public has an appetite for this sort of hard driving folk. Once you factor in the beautifully detailed instrumental performances on this record, which are left plenty of space to shine through the mix, Palmer should be more than a match for her.
A lyrically sharp album with gritty vocals and powerful music that makes you sit up and listen!
Angie Palmer is known for her strong use of European influenced narratives in her music and on this album she draws on literature as her main source as in the dark visions of Edgar Allan Poe on the broodingly tormented Ravens with Angie’s wonderfully tortured and moving vocals pulling you in to the songs contents and moods.
The plaintive Columbus for a Day is about the death of a close friend and is such a beautiful eulogy that it begs for you to press repeat again so as to really listen to the words. The mood is carried on into The Ballad of John Henry with some fine harmonica sounds from Angie to compliment her stirring vocal delivery. The arts figure again in the jauntily catchy Michelangelo and The Secret Between the Sun and the Moon is superb just for the pure simplicity of sound.
Throughout the album Angie is supported by some quite wonderful musicians forming perfect framework for Palmer’s exquisitely edgy vocals as well as her fine musicianship on acoustic guitar, banjo and harmonica. Palmer has been compared, quite fittingly, to Joni Mitchell and Lucinda Williams and her excellent songwriting partnership with Paul Mason has garnered analogies with Bob Dylan. Also championed by Bob Harris and only one of two female singer-songwiters chosen for his recent Best of British show proves the high esteem she is beginning to be held in.
This is a wonderfully diverse collection of music that should get her even more critical acclaim building on her last album Road which was included in HMV Choice’s Top Ten.
Striking fourth release from Preston based songstress. With several fine reviews for previous releases under her belt and radio play from the venerable Bob Harris, it’s strange that Palmer hasn’t made a bigger name for herself by now. Released on her own aKrasia label this album, chockfull of fine songs sensitively played should give her a big push. Fronting a great band, acoustic based, with sterling guitar work from Steve Buckley and sweet violin from Richard Curran, the music flows beautifully, at times recalling the soundscapes of Joni Mitchell’s Hejira or Van Morrison’s Veedon Fleece. Taken at a leisurely pace throughout the songs are unhurried, allowing the players to stretch out creating some wonderful interplay. On the closer, Letter From Home, they approach that languid sound achieved on some of Nick Drake’s work.
Opening song, Fool’s Gold, is the jauntiest here, inspired by Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov’s stories the violin soars like Scarlett Rivera’s on Dylans’s Desire. On The Ballad of John Henry a man looks back at his misspent days as he prepares to face his maker, Buckley has an excellent slide solo, the equal of some of David Lindley’s work. Premonition Blues is a wordy litany concerning climate change sung over sympathetic acoustic picking. The Rose of Sharon visits Steinbeck’s displaced farmers heading for disappointment in the promised land, again the music is excellent with the violin especially impressive. Palmer’s lyrics (co-written with Paul Mason) are above average and she has an attractive voice, low in the register, unforced and lived in.
Overall an excellent album. 8/10
Country Music People
My review of Angie Palmer’s previous album ‘Road’ included the following gem of wisdom “This is one of those albums that exudes class from every pore and which is likely to provide new highlights each time it§ is played but which is difficult to describe in a review” and that’s pretty much my view of this one, although one addition might be that this album needs to be listened to and it’s not something just to be heard.
Many of the songs are about romance, often the end of same, although John Henry appears to be about the same bloke that Lonnie Donegan sang about, Premonition Blues could be about the apocalypse (or the Middle East situation if you prefer that description) while it would seem that Columbus For A Day is about a friend who died. The packaging again is delightful.
All the songs are collaborations between Angie Palmer and Paul Mason. Like ‘Road’ this follow-up album involves very literary lyrics – there is no singalongaAngie item. Other reviewers have compared Palmer to Joni Mitchell, but Mitchell feels rather indigestible to me. The songs here seem to me to be the product of a vivid imagination and quite a hard life up to now. Again like its predecessor the backing musicians are supremely tasteful, especially Richard Curran on violin and Steve Buckley on various guitars.
What to say of this? Well anyone who enjoyed ‘Road’ will also enjoy this one. Merely because ‘Road’ was my first exposure to Angie Palmer and this one doesn’t have the same impact because it is no longer a novelty to hear anyone as original and polished as Angie Palmer, this is still better than 99% of the albums anyone will hear this year.
Angie’s previous disc ‘Road’ was an excellent album that was a deserved critical and commercial success, but it was certainly never going to be an easy album to follow; from the first listen it’s obvious that ‘Tales of Light & Darkness’ is a more than worthy successor that improves on ‘Road’ in every area.
The opening track ‘Fool’s Gold’ sets the tone of the disc; it’s a wordy but exceptionally well written song with some delicate but rhythmic guitar work and intelligent and interesting backing from the assembled musicians. In particular the various guitars (national, lap steel, dobro, electric and acoustic) are superb and there are some memorable violin and viola parts throughout the disc.
The album contains 10 songs and runs to almost 55 minutes, while none of the songs are overly long they’re substantial pieces that allow both the lyrical narrative and musical themes to develop; these are full blooded singer/songwriter songs that are complete, assured and recorded without compromise.
The songs are strong and mature singer/songwriter ballads with that have elements of folk, country and blues in equal measure; comparisons are never easy and often not helpful but think Julie Miller and you’ll not be too far away.
The writing combination of Angie and Paul Mason has produced 10 impressive songs, in particular ‘Down on Zero Street’ a tale of a condemned man sprung from jail and the confused and ultimately sad events that follow, other highlights include the memorable melody of ‘Michelangelo’ and the delicacy of ‘Columbus for a Day’.
‘Tales of Light & Darkness’ is a superb album with quality at every turn, from the beautiful packaging through to the closing strains of ‘Letters from Home’.
This, the forth CD from Angie Palmer, is shot through with all the correct ingredients to ensure that she is lifted up to a much higher profile, not only in the UK but hopefully worldwide.
As a writer Angie draws quite heavily upon literature as inspiration (with help from the philosopher Paul Mason) however she manages to ride the fine line between losing your attention with those references thereby boring the pants of you and drawing you into her world. She does the latter with ease and you are carried away on the lyrical and aural landscapes she creates on these, often long. storytelling outings.
True to tell that love and loss unfold before us as the CD progresses however it is the strong narrative songs that draw my attention. Fool’s Gold is just a cinematic joy as it moves along at a good pace with fine picking and a gloriously haunting violin towards the end. Down on Zero Street weaves a tale around a hanging. Ravens, a dark sombre and ultimately powerful song follows prior to Premonition Blues, which is just fantastic.
Columbus For A Day is pure Joni Mitchell territory, simple in construction and feel it transport you to a place of peace on a bed of acoustic guitar and those haunting strings again. I loved the Dylanesque harmonica on The Ballad of John Henry before we pick up the tempo again with the melodic Michelangelo. Could this be a possible single?
So with strong elements of blues, folk and country as a base, Angie Palmer has produced a very fine collection of 10 songs. Add to it the beautiful packaging and you end up with an album with quality stamped all over it.
Partnerships play a major role in our world and come in many guises. Sometimes they work really well and sometimes they don’t: Angie Palmer and Paul mason are a classic example of the former. Having met by chance (although I’m a great believer that nothing is), they have produced a body of work that rubs shoulders with the very best in their field. The words come courtesy of Paul and pull heavily on the deep and spiritual. He and Angie appear to have an almost telepathic understanding of the songwriting craft- it’s hard to imagine either working with anyone else. This album follows on from the critically acclaimed ‘Road’, but this time round the emphasis is on a more full-blooded sound. Angie’s singing a little harder than before, but that’s not to say there aren’t plenty of poignant moments too. ‘Premonition Blues’ is one of those moments; over the top of a hushed acoustic and banjo she echoes what must be at the forefront of our minds in these troubled times, the lyrics cutting hard and deep: “Well I heard somebody saying we’re progressing everyday, I think they must be joking ‘cos the end is on its way.” This is a magical album, and to resist is madness. Go buy and enrich your lives beyond measure.
Angie’s already regarded by many as one of this country’s finest female singer-songwriters, yet although her three previous albums gained increasing numbers of plaudits and significantly healthy airplay (Bob Harris being her most recent radio champion) she’s still not yet quite made it into the wider consciousness of the nation. Tales Of Light And Darkness, her fourth album, is a work of considerable maturity and ought by rights to gain her that recognition. Although Angie’s music still falls between readily-pigeonholeable stools, as it were, that shouldn’t count against her as each successive album brings another different element of her musical personality out into the forefront. Angie moves easily between gentle folky rootsy Americana and more aggressive country-blues, even hinting at bluesy-rock, and virtually all points in between, and equally plausible in any of these idioms.
In many ways, Tales … is like Road part two in many respects, with the superb playing of violinist Richard Curran common to both albums. On Tales … Angie’s trusty backing crew also includes Steve Buckley (electric guitar, dobro, lap steel), Ollie Collins (basses) and Tim Franks (drums), who together stretch out almost leisurely fashion to create an at times monumental backdrop for Angie’s stories, each of which is a strong creation with its own separate identity. Once again all the songs were co-written with Paul Mason, displaying the high level of intelligence and literacy (both musical and lyrical) that we’ve come to associate with Angie’s work.
Some (like Fool’s Gold and Down On Zero Street) embody a Dylanesque sense of narrative sweep, whereas Rose Of Sharon evokes Steinbeckian visions of the dispossessed. Some other songs have overtones of Joni Mitchell perhaps, with their homing in on altogether more personal journeys of love, loss and redemption; many, like Letters From Home, are highly reflective and steeped in the restless sense of a necessary moving-on that’s very much tempered with realism. There are darker moments too, like Ravens, where the lover’s desperation is conveyed with a rather Poe-esque severe beauty of imagery, and Premonition Blues with its looser feel and its old-timey, homespun philosophy of resignation. Columbus For A Day, perhaps the most personal statement of all, deals simply and poignantly with the death of a close friend.
Throughout this range of emotions, Angie’s voice proves ideally expressive, displaying a deep, worldly, gritty toughness with a distinctly tender edge – she’s been compared to Lucinda Williams, but I think Angie’s expressive potential is probably more akin to that of Julie Miller. So here’s another impressive, highly assured set from Angie, housed in a neat and attractive digipack – high production and presentation values rule as before!