Following three EPs, Devon duo singer and songwriter Lara Snowdon and violinist Kathryn Tremlett finally release their eponymous debut album, Velvet & Stone one which more than lives up to expectations.
Accompanied by Kev Jackson on guitar, producer Josiah Manning on keys and rhythm section Paddy Blight and Garry Kroll, they explore a realm of dark indie-folk that touches on both traditional and contemporary, poppy, influences. It’s the latter that kicks the album off with ‘Fisherman’s Blues’, not The Waterboys number, but a self-penned (as is all the material) song from their 2016 debut Storms EP on which, accompanied by steady march drum beat and Tremlett’s fiddle drone draws on the area’s fishing tradition and how girlfriend and wives would stare out to sea awaiting their loved ones’ return, some of whom never did.
Another previous release, ‘Oh Boy’ keeps the dark folk colours, but ups the tempo for a drums, violin and guitar driven song of unrequited love that makes effective use of dramatic musical pause and a surging chorus that suggests they’ve spent some time listening to Seth Lakeman. While charting a similar thematic course of rejection, things rein back in slightly for ‘Lay Her Down’ before it starts to build to a doomy, violin-lashed climax with Snowden’s impassioned vocals full of fire and fury.
Co-penned with Roger Styles, underlaid with keyboards and acoustic guitar, over which Tremlett’s violin weaves haunting notes, ‘Breathe’ is of a dreamier persuasion but still finds Snowdon yearning for a love out of reach.
Bubbling with pizzicato violin notes and Manning’s banjuitar, ‘Walls’ is another swelling number tossed on the tides of love resisted, drawing on siege metaphors, she sings “If I come here with my armies and breach the castle walls/Will the bricks and mortar crumble if I could love you more?”.
While that is constructed with traditional folk wattle and daub, ‘By The Water’ builds its love is blind longing and river imagery with a more folk-pop framework, opening with strummed guitar before a pulsing reminiscence of The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’ gives way to an infectious, soaring chorus. Whether by coincidence or design, there’s a watery ambience to the keys and violin on the steady rhythmic march of ‘Am I Dreaming?’ the lyrics of which combine both beating wings and undercurrent tugs, maintaining a similar soundscape and the double-tracked vocals of ‘Forget About The Rain’, a keeningly dreamy, pop-inflected number of the sun after the rain relationship metaphor variety. It ends back in traditional style with Tremlett laying down a sprightly West Country folksy fiddle backing to ‘I’ll Dream Of You Tonight’ as, again drawing on images of oceans, waves and shores, it bursts into a lively Morris-like fiddle and drums instrumental romping finale.
Hopefully, Snowdon’s songwriting doesn’t reflect the state of her own romantic life, but even if it does, the duo can rest assured that this hugely confident and impressive album is going to ensure there’s plenty of love out there for them.
Artists’ website: www.velvetstonemusic.com
‘By The Water’ – officially live: