VELVET & STONE – The Storm (VelvetStone LVID001)

The StormA new female alt-folk trio from Devon, Lara Snowden and Holly Jo Gilbert-West sharing vocals and acoustic guitar with Kathryn Tremlett on violin and piano, make their recording bow with a six track EP of original material that most certainly whets the appetite for a full album in the hopefully not too distant future.

It’s perhaps a mark of their assurance that they open proceedings with a ballad titled ‘Fisherman’s Blues’. It certainly takes balls, or whatever the female equivalent may be, to share a title with one of the best known Waterboys’ classics, let alone brazenly have it head up the collection, but, featuring fiddle, spooked electric guitar, upright bass and tinklingly moody descending piano line, its tale of a girl growing up in a fishing town, with all the tragedies that can bring, effortlessly sweeps any quality comparisons aside.

Having made such an assertive entrance, they continue to impress with a further set of songs that draw upon their West Country background, the forces of nature and a female perspective. Second up showcases Tremlett’s sorrowful violin on the heartbreak-themed ‘Sweet Summer Rain’ with its almost ethereal keyboards swirl from producer Jack Henderson and cascading melody line, moving on to ‘Patchwork’, an optimistic love song underpinned by an insistent tapping and tumbling military beat and fleshed out with violin and piano. ‘Same Old Records’ takes a swerve into jazzier areas with gypsy violin and Andrew Tween from Seth Lakeman’s band providing syncopated drums, the finger-clicking rhythm and twin vocals calling to mind a folksier Cleo Laine.

Things are pared back to primarily acoustic guitar for ‘That Road’, a terrific moody, soulful number, the melody and vocal delivery of which can’t help but call to mind Bill Withers’s ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. Introduced by piano trills and almost Oriental-flavoured violin waterfalls, the album closes with the title track, written on a Cornwall beach and looking to evoke that sense of feeling the most alive in the darkest hours, embracing rather than running from the metaphorical winds and tides.

Potentially the West Country’s answer to First Aid Kit, currently, the trio largely seem to only play around their own backyard. I suspect their horizons are about to expand dramatically.

Mike Davies

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