Marry Waterson and David A. Jaycock have revealed the first single (and accompanying video) taken from their second album as a duo, the haunting folk lament ‘Small Ways And Slowly’. The pair are set to release the wonderful new album, Death Had Quicker Wings Than Love, via One Little Indian Records on 29th September.
Featuring a plethora of notable collaborations with the likes of celebrated singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams, Romeo Stodart (The Magic Numbers), Emma Smith (The Elysian Quartet), John Parish (PJ Harvey) and produced by Portishead’s Adrian Utley, the uniquely atmospheric, dark and haunting folk record focusses Waterson and Jaycock’s singular voice and sets them apart.
Of course, no-one needs to explain to Marry Waterson of the magic that happens when you keep the front door open. Bright Phoebus, the game-changing 1972 album, recorded by Lal and Mike Waterson, was recorded in just such a fashion. Consciously or otherwise, it seems that Marry and David ring-fenced something of that process and applied it to Death Had Quicker Wings Than Love. “We saw everyone as potential contributors. I remember on one of the final days we were recording ‘Small Ways And Slowly’ – John Parish popped in to borrow something and ended up laying down some percussion which totally lifted the song. It was such a kick to be able to hand over these songs and work with people who understood where they were coming from to such a degree, often on first hearing.”
Marry’s surprise is genuine, yet what you can hear time and time again isn’t the result of dumb luck. It’s a testament to a specific power that lies deep in the Waterson DNA. She opens her mouth to sing and you immediately pick out the details in the picture.
Death Had Quicker Wings Than Love follows in previous record Two Wolves’ authentic English folk style, similarly inspired by personal experience, but told through the form of historical fables. “Feeling lost is a common thread throughout the record,” explains Marry. It’s a feeling addressed most directly in Lost (adjective), a pensive study in the disorientation that remains when two souls are wrenched apart.
And working with Portishead’s Adrian Utley has freshened Waterson and Jaycock’s signature style; the record evidently treads new ground. Opening track, ‘The Vain Jackdaw’, was inspired by the classic Aesop Fables. “The inside cover of my tattered copy bears the lines ‘This Book Bilongs to Me. Address 160 Hull. 8 years old’, says Marry. The vocal was recorded outside on the rooftop, and left totally unaccompanied, apart from a haunting guitar intro. Utley wanted Marry to “sing into the air like a bird”.
Waterson made her recording debut on her mother Lal and aunt Norma Waterson’s A True Hearted Girl back in 1977 and later under the name The Waterdaughters. She also formed an occasional singing partnership with them and Eliza Carthy, appearing on numerous Watersons and Waterson / Carthy recordings to boot – but it wasn’t until two crucial shows in 2007 that the idea of making music herself really took hold.
That year Marry and brother Oliver Knight appeared with the Waterson family at a special Royal Albert Hall concert entitled A Mighty River of Song, and again later the same year at the BBC Electric Proms Concert Once in a Blue Moon: A Tribute to Lal Waterson in which they both played key roles as performers and curators.
Encouraged, in 2011 came the pair’s hugely acclaimed debut The Days That Shaped Me, which was nominated for a BBC Folk Award. That album, and it’s 2012 follow-up Hidden (again as Marry Waterson & Oliver Knight) showcased Marry’s highly original and distinctly English performance style – style that owes much to the folk tradition. Marry went on to team up with David A Jaycock for third album Two Wolves in 2015, which was released to fantastic critical praise. Having previously worked with Neill MacColl and Kate St. John on several projects including Hal Willner’s Rogue’s Gallery at Sydney Opera House and the Bright Phoebus tour, the pair were the obvious choice to produce the record.
Waterson has since been busy with a reissue of Bright Phoebus, Lal and Mike Waterson’s 1972 folk-noir masterpiece. Featuring performances from Lal, Mike and Norma Waterson, Martin Carthy, Richard Thompson, Ashley Hutchings, Dave Mattacks, Tim Hart and Maddy Prior, amongst others, the album is now recognised as a forward-thinking benchmark for the genre, and will be released by Domino Records in August.
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‘Small Ways And Slowly’ – official video: