Folk music, as opposed to singer-songwriting or the many facets of acoustic music, has a sense of place and history. It is defined by social context. Nevertheless, one small niche within the folk traditional defies the here and now and fosters the notion of a spiritual ‘otherworld’, a dreamy predilection that allows poets and sages to have flights of fancy around a speculative anchor of mystic ‘truth’ that supposedly underlies everything we are and everything we do. It was particularly pervasive among some late 19th century romantic poets such as W.B.Yeats , Arthur O’Shaughnessy and George Russell whose work also happens to have coincided with the first folk revival. Jake Walton’s Silver Muse not only sets to music some of the classic work of these poets but also embraces the spiritual zeitgeist of their era in his own compositions. In this respect he is deliciously out of kilter with almost all contemporary mainstream folk music.
So if we are “World losers and world- forsakers on which the pale moon gleams” (O’Shaughnessy), let’s not be too harsh on Mr Walton for not cutting the edge of contemporary sounds. Let’s assume that the rather bland repetitive rippling guitar that cloaks almost every track on this album is intended for some greater purpose. Let’s also hope that the distinctively fey 1970s flavour of the whole exercise will appeal to those who wondered whatever happened to Amazing Blondel and Vashti Bunyan. But I’m left wondering why it is that only one track – ‘Beyond The Veil’, co-written with Jez Lowe – has any discernible “song-ness” and structure.
Oh dear, I tried and tried again to like this album. This is, after all, Jake Walton who partnered with Jez Lowe for ten years and pioneered the UK hurdy-gurdy revival. His mark on British folk music is undisputed. Indeed, Silver Muse makes no apology for returning to Jake’s earlier work that allows him muse again on “the moon being my constant mistress” and “helping me reconnect and remember the time before we lost touch with the un-seen”. Perhaps with some spiritual succor and a spell in his native Cornwall I’d understand. For now, though, he’s lost me.
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Artists’s website: www.jakewaltonmusic.co.uk
‘Silver Muse’ – official video: