JUNI HABEL – Carvings (Basin Rock)

CarvingsA Waldorf – or Steiner – teacher as well as a singer-songwriter, Habel lives in rural Southern Norway, sharing an old school house with her husband, brother, grandmother and a friend, where she records her songs. Carvings is her second album, one she says she wanted to write about family and the course of nature, of life, death, beauty and tragedy.

It opens with the eerie, dreamlike ‘Rhythm Of The Tides’, drone giving way to sparse  acoustic guitar and introducing you to an intimate voice that conjures a weaving of the confessional sound of Bjork with Vashti Bunyan and fellow Scandinavian Stina Nordenstam, the song inspired by a  dream she had after reading Thoreau, about she and her mother walking through a dark jungle towards a black lake, the undertone being of both mortality (“As I walk  to the stream/black velvet pulls me/i felt a call from the deep/that the end I´’d come to meet”) and the vibrancy of feeling alive in its looming presence as she asks “So tell me why we were offered this time to be alive that morning”.

A similar concept informs ‘Chicory’, a watery upbeat folksy fingerpicked track towards the end, in the lines “there are blossoms in the grass/sunny days colors, come have a taste of it, before it pass” and a call to not be disconnected from nature (“show me how to praise the sun with affection and calm/life can be so good, but I´ve been blind for so long”).

There’s an air of traditional English troubadour folk behind the more experimental touch of  ‘I Went Out And Sought For Your Name’  with its poetic lyrical sensibility where, husband Erik on harmonies, she sings of love and endurance (“You went off on a journey/pulled the anchor, while we gazed up at the stars/how we lingered with our burning flames and learned to build a new age and find a way be the ones to remain to live and forgive the anger and despair”).

She double-tracks her vocals for ‘Little Twirl’, another sprightly fingerpicked pastoral folk  affair veined with nature imagery that seems to think back to childhood days (“you are braver than me/you climb up to the top of a tree and call for your brother to see/I know you wish never to be without him”).

There’s a deeply personal foundation to ‘Valiant’ as she invokes the spirit of her teenage sister, who died in a car accident in a whisperingly sung number about  enduring connection (“our relation would never fade/couldn’t leave you lightly when we weave into each other”) that has, perhaps, a tint of Janis Ian.

One of two tracks  that exceed the six-minute mark and comes with an 80 second instrumental intro,  ‘When We Awake’ has muted jazz inflections threading through the folky swirl as she again talks of having “lived with eyes closed” and has now awoken to the beauty around her and of the need to also find it within (“You find gold in brooks, but/Won´t you find it in yourself”).

The second six-minuter is ‘Drifting Pounds Of The Train’, another dreamlike rippling fingerpicked number that both unfolds regrets over a relationship that failed to live up to expectations (“seven years went down in the drain/they spun so deep, what a shame”) and being left alone and empty (“But what can live inside a song/what can live/what can live inside me/Here”) but also seems to return to her sister’s death (“I think of all the flowers in the fields/how the roots bend in wait for spring/beloved was your unlived life/remains forever young and bright”).

She closes with the pared-back, close harmonies swaying ‘I Carry You, My Love’, a haunting song about loss (“I carry you my love with my clattering bones and puts all else aside … I lay my head to the soil to the ground when the heart longs to be together in the ground”) and memory (“When my words won’t find you/I will find you in my tears/some shining day or a late cold night/you´d return to your home together in abound/But that is forever ago”).

Evoking  the best of introspective 60s folk, Carvings is an album to warm hearts and winter evenings.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website: www.facebook.com/junihabel

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