DEBORAH ROSE –The Shining Pathway (own label)

The Shining PathwayOriginally from Newport in South Wales but now based in Worcester, the pure-voiced Rose comes impressively endorsed by no less than Mary Gauthier and Judy Collins. Recorded variously in Nashville and Ludlow, The Shining Pathway  is her third album, a collection of songs about love, loss and transformation, much inspired by personal experience, pretty much all of the instrumentation provided by producer Ben Walsh.

It’s loss that underpins the strings-adorned opening track, ‘Wrestling With Angels’, a song about having to let go, apparently inspired by a visit to Crathie Kirk church near Balmoral on the same day the Queen was in attendance, while, in similar vein to Phil Ochs’ ‘There But For Fortune’, the softly sung ‘Grace I Go’, another mentioning angels, is about counting your blessings.

Another location spurred ‘Basket Of Roses’, namely the cave in Crete where Joni Mitchell wrote Blue (she even mentions singing ‘Carey’ while she was there and references the Mermaid Café and Matala Moon), the song, moodily picked out on acoustic guitar, about “the goddess within”, of holding on to grace, dignity and self-respect in matters of the heart.

From Joni, it’s a logical step to Laurel Canyon, the writing location for the rhythmically propulsive ‘Willow Of The Canyon’ while there singing for Marianne Williamson, until recently a Democratic presidential candidate.

From female empowerment to female victimisation, the resonant fingerpicked ‘Bluebeard’ is a dark pastoral folk styled song based on the French folk tale of a nobleman serial wife killer, albeit Rose reworking the narrative to have her protagonist escape (another appearance by ‘metaphorical’ angels) her grisly fate.

Her degree in literature also stands her in good stead for an intimately sung darkling folk setting of A.E. Houseman’s poem ‘The Recruit’ from A Shropshire Lad, set to music to mark the 100th anniversary of WWI and featuring the bells from Ludlow tower.

Moving to songs of love, a softly sung fingerpicked acoustic ballad, ‘Glow Of A Thousand Candles’ is a lovely image about the feeling love can bring while, accompanied by piano and poet Rebecca Weiner Tompkins on violin ‘Butterly’ is another hushedly sung vocally double-tracked cover of a ballad by Canadian songwriter Melodie Mitchell (who contributes piano) about the downside of being in love with a free spirit.

Then, taking wing from lepidoptera to avians, ‘Nigel’, written in collaboration with the late Eva Cassidy’s father at his Maryland home and featuring plucked mandolin, is based on a true story from The Washington Post about a lonely gannet who fell in love with and died next to a concrete decoy. I think you can draw your own allegories.

The album closes with the near six-minute ballad ‘Shallow Waters’, co-written with Christine Nichols (who sings backing vocals and plays piano), an aspiring songwriter she met during a Nashville writing retreat with Gauthier, her voice soaring on a spiritual call for wisdom and truth in a fractured world as she sings “I don’t want to swim in shallow waters…I don’t fear the depths of the sea”. May I suggest you take the plunge and join her.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

‘Wrestling With Angels’ – official video: