In September 2012, nineteen-year-old Swedish songwriter Jenny Lysander posted a cover of Piers Faccini’s ‘Time Of Nought’ on YouTube. A couple of months, and several Facebook messages later, Piers and Jenny decided to meet in London.
Listening to Jenny’s demo – and despite the hum and hiss of her home Garageband recordings – Piers was immediately excited to hear an original songwriter’s voice. Their next meeting was at Piers’s home studio in the south of France – and their very first session together was the basis for Jenny’s EP, Lighthouse, released on Faccini’s own label Beating Drum in the Spring of 2014.
Jenny Lysander’s songs have an eerie otherworldliness to them. They seem to come from Nordic ice-blue horizons, and a dim winter sun that briefly rises before setting again. There is a melancholy tint to them too: as in the haunting ‘Blackbird’, and ‘Jag Malade’ sung in her native Swedish. But this melancholy is filled with warmth and tenderness. It is as if Jenny’s quietude produces a delicate kind of joy.
“I have always liked dark and mysterious things.” Lysander says, “Melancholic things ground me, give me a sense of depth, as well as a strange feeling of safety.”
Having helped launch the career of the Brazilian singer and cellist Dom la Nena (producing her acclaimed album, Ela), Faccini has once again found himself uncovering and then guiding a young talent towards the limelight. Piers and Jenny recorded Northern Folk over two sessions in the summer months of 2014. Hidden away in the Mediterranean landscape, deep in the woods, far from the noise and interference of any city, Faccini’s rural studio felt like the perfect setting for recording Jenny Lysander’s songs.
Lysander began writing her own songs at the age of thirteen. She describes her recording process with Faccini as a kind of apprenticeship. “When I started listening to his music,” she says, “I didn’t know what ‘folk’ meant, I just knew I loved what I heard and I sensed a sort of authenticity and wisdom in his way of writing songs. That he happened to be the one producing my songs was just a very happy coincidence.” Piers, too, was drawn to Jenny songs from the very first moment. “Her talent,” he says, “is astonishing and the depth of her writing belies her years. It has been a wonderful privilege to record her songs.”
Jenny Lysander’s debut album opens with ‘A Painter’s Brush’. The title is an apt one as the album feels like it is played with soft touches, reminiscent of an artist’s brush. As Faccini says, “if this album were a collection of paintings they would surely be a suite of northern landscapes.”
Hoping to give Jenny’s songs something broader than the stark beauty of an accompanying guitar, Faccini worked on weaving the songs together with a variety of different acoustic tones. In songs like ‘Mind Me’, or ‘Giving Thanks’ dulcimers, koras and mandolins drift into glissando choirs – and twelve-string and resonator guitars slide behind Lysander’s voice and agile guitar work. To bring further rhythmic intensity to the album, Faccini enrolled Italian drummer Simone Prattico, and convinced renowned English bassist Pat Donaldson to come out of retirement. Songs like the beguiling ‘Dancing On The Edge’, or even the title track ‘Northern Folk’, bring a pulsing syncopation to the album and complement the soft intensity of Jenny’s voice.
Timeless and unique as Lysander’s music is, it reveals the influence of songwriters such as Sandy Denny, Joni Mitchell or even Kate Bush. Bringing Donaldson into the fold – who played alongside Sandy Denny in the 1970s in the group Fotheringay – allowed the album to build a fascinating bridge between different generations of female songwriters. Of today’s songwriters, Jenny Lysander’s profound and poetic voice bears some comparison to Laura Marling, whose own recording career also began at an early age and with a style that defied simple categorisation. Lysander’s songs similarly don’t seem to belong to any particular age. From beginning to end, though, Northern Folk is undoubtedly folk, Swedish even, and confidently sings to the whole world.
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Artist’s website: http://jennylysander.com/
‘Lysander echoes the same understated beauty as folk music greats like Nick Drake and Fairport Convention, with a modern tint that draws comparison to Agnes Obel and Ane Brun’ Drunken Werewolf
Jenny Lysander – ‘Time Of Nought’: