Sue Harding lives in Somerset and has been writing, playing and singing for quite a while now in several guises including Angel Ridge and Harding McCabe. Darkling is her second solo album, written during lockdown and supported by producer Josh Clark with cello by Beth Porter on two tracks. I first listened to the record on a system that wasn’t up to it but the second time, with headphones, was a different matter. Don’t make that mistake. Sue has a voice that can be delicate and girlish but also powerful and she has a range that gives her so much flexibility.
The first track, ‘Clovelly’, begins and ends with the sound of wind and water and like many of her songs it is romantic and philosophical. Beth’s cello gives it a feel of open space in a way that I can’t quite describe and it’s a lovely way to start. ‘Fallen’ features Josh’s ambient sounds and something that sounds like an autoharp but isn’t. I really like the way Darkling develops although I do wish I had the lyrics to study. ‘Catherine Street’ features a woman who sometimes “feels like the Lady of Shallot” who I suppose is living in her own personal fantasy and ‘Silver And Dust’ takes the fantasy a step further as Sue seems to take us into her world. There’s something Dylanesque in the cast of characters who pass before us.
‘Something Real’ is similarly dark but then Sue takes on a country sway with ‘Old Smokey’s Lullaby’ and carries that over into ‘Light Of Day’. Now ‘Hydra’ isn’t about Jason and his crew but it seems to be about memory and approaching doom. But, in thinking back, Sue sings, “I would do it just the same”. The songs are beginning to become deeper and darker now and the arrangements denser. Again, ‘A Dark And Breathing Space’ and ‘The Dryad’s Love Song’ take us somewhere “other”. Finally, ‘The Birchwood’, opening and closing with birdsong, is pretty but still mysterious.
I must confess that I don’t fully understand Darkling but that doesn’t matter. I like it and I’ll continue to tug at its threads. I still wish I had the lyrics, though.
Artist’s website: https://www.suehardingsongs.com/
‘The Birchwood’ – official video:
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