FAELAND – When I Close My Eyes (Faeland GSR.CD.002)

When I Close My EyesFaeland’s When I Close My Eyes is melodic folk album that bobs melodically on the surface of a lake yet still manages to probe the deep depths of its waters. I suppose Sandy Denny is at work here. She, with an immense traditional folk song resume, decided to “jump the broomstick” and persisted with her own self-penned eclectically melodic folk songs that set the stage for bands like Trees, Dando Shaft and Spriguns, or Mr. Fox. When I Close My Eyes takes that same leap into a world of great folk music that avoids singing yet another rendition of an age-old tune Cecil Sharp found while talking to someone who claimed blood kinship to Lord Randal, or perhaps, the infamous John Lee – the ‘Babbacombe’ guy whom they just couldn’t hang.

There’s some early Joni Mitchell here. It’s also a nice dance partner with (the very excellent) This Is The Kit and their recent Off Off On album.

‘Easier’ is pure acoustic paradise: Jacob Morrison’s guitar stretches tension while Rebecca Nelson sweetens the broth with the crystal brook voice of that “sweet flying dove” mentioned in John Martyn’s ‘Certain Surprise’. And a piano and banjo also grace the tune.

Oh my! ‘Was’ struts with a patient folk groove that has the attitude of a great Thea Gilmore song. A banjo propels the tune, while a violin saws its way through any hint of a safety net. Rebecca double tracks her vocals in order to be quite cautionary and (almost) jovial at the very same time. That’s a clever juxtaposition. And, quite frankly, the final moments of the song conjure passion like Kate Bush’s voice in her early Lionheart days. Indeed, “Don’t push your foot on the heartbreak’. It’s a great tune. And a bit of a banshee wail, there!

Then things settle down a bit: ‘Little Lights’ is a sparce voice and guitar tune (with some percussion) that simply strolls down that yellow brick road with all those evil witches watered away as the lyrics inform ‘The hundred more million lights” will always supersede the stuff “that went wrong today”.

By the way, Rebecca Nelson has an incredible voice.

And things settle down a bit more: ‘End Of The Day’ is simply acoustic perfection. Time stands still because beauty can do that every once in a while, here, there, and, to be certain, on John Keats’ ‘Grecian Urn’. Then, ‘Long Lost’ is piano played with a slow molasses vocal that really does hit the high note purity of (the before-mentioned) Sandy Denny and Joni Mitchell. ‘Ocean Song’ is spooky and really does mine a traditional groove as it walks through an ancient graveyard with unclaimed folk songs etched into all the granite tombstone memories. And, ‘Used To’, is again, a tune which pops with a surface bob, yet plunges into the darker depths—a place where the melodic struggle between a certain pop hit surface song and the “tapestry” of a nice deep river Carole King tune gathers its own weird momentum with the urgency of a Natalie Merchant vocal.

Odd: Fairport Convention recorded Richard Thompson’s song ‘How Many Times’ for their comeback album, Gladys’ Leap. And I have to ask the very same question, as to “how many times” must I quote RT’s brilliant ‘Meet On The Ledge’ thought from so long ago that still says, even after all these Cropredy Festival years, “If you really mean it, it all comes round again”. Faeland’s album mines that 70’s ethos; and because they “really mean it”, they play sincere music that, thankfully, “all comes round again”.

There’s more great folk music: ‘What Will I Be’ is a brief acapella (sort of) Appalachian hymn that serves as a prelude to the expansive ‘Willow’, which is epic folk stuff—with a touch of mandolin. ‘Made To Love You’, despite its obvious title, does indeed, touch the transparent ghost of (the always mentioned) Sandy Denny, when she simply sang and played the piano. And ‘Tin Pan Pocket’ continues a simple beauty with guitar, inflated bass, and Rebecca’s voice that floats on helium air, puffed into moments with turbulence, but is still always, and somehow, always still, really nice and quiet folk stuff.

Then the final song, ‘To The Ones I Know And Love’, taps a melodic finger on an age-worn pocket watch and begs it to tell better time. Good folk music does something like that.

When I Close My Eyes touches some aged oak—while it plants new seedlings with melodies that glance, chant, and then jump that broomstick because, well, “If you really mean it’, yeah, like true grit folk music, and as the almighty Fairport sang, “it really” does “come round again”.

Bill Golembeski

Artists’ website: https://faeland.co.uk/

‘Little Lights’ – official video: