The Smoke Fairies new album, Darkness Brings The Wonders Home, is music that coughs up a bluesy and very British folk rock beauty. You know, the brilliant bottleneck player Mississippi Fred McDowell said, “I do not play no rock ‘n’ roll”, but these women certainly do – with British silky slide guitar to spare.
The first two songs explode with tough guitar lingo. In a way, this never stops being folk music; yet, in another way, it never stops being a lot of other things. Of course, The Fairies have played bluesy rock before with ‘The Three Of Us’ from their Blood Speaks album, but this new record certainly ups the amperage in relation to their last self-titled record which created lovely and dense and (somewhat) languid folk rock.
But, back to those first two songs, ‘On The Wing’ and ‘Elevator’: The former clears the air with a strident bottle-necked pulse, while those twin voices hover like angry spectres. Ahh, ‘Elevator’ plays a four aces riff, worthy of any card-carrying rock band of the 70’s with wah-wah intensity. And there’s a rhythmic piano to boot! It’s a wonderous rock tune.
Well, the rock pulse continues. ‘Disconnect’ has urgent chords, a lead guitar that plays with the angular construction of Chairs Missing period Wire, and vocals that recall an early Kate Bush. ‘Coffee Shop Blues’ is patient rock, with a broad landscape that percolates with the touch of honest truth. Once again, those vocals stretch toward a sublime sunset. This song dances on slow time.
‘Left To Roll’ is that same slow time with an even more glorious melody. I am from America’s frozen Midwest, and this song is a deep pair of warm gloves. It’s just an idea, but that’s the big deal with the Smoke Fairies’ music on this record: The solicitous singing butts against the juxtaposed punchy rock guitar sound. Darkness Brings The Wonder Home, more than any other SF’s album, tugs with bewitching tension.
Just a comment about the lovely unison vocals of Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies: Years ago, the band Three Dog Night had a hit single called ‘One Is The Loneliest Number’. And the Greeks “considered the number 1 a unit and not a proper number, which had to express a multiplicity” (Thank you, once again Simon Critchley!). But these voices defy all that negativity about the solitary digit because the two Smoke Fairies become one in a joyous (before the fall) harmony of a Blakean “England’s green and pleasant land”. Yes, indeed, this music never stops being vibrate folk music.
And then the riff stuff returns. ‘Out Of The Woods’ vibrates with stinging chords and a psych feel. ‘Chocolate Rabbit’ grooves with guitar grease. The vocals slide with a spooky incantation. ‘Chew Your Bones’ gets bluesy with a Macbeth “hellbroth” harmony. This song taps beauty and evil at the very same time. And ‘Don’t You Want To Spiral Out Of Control?’ flickers with psychedelic stop lights.
And, just another comment: This album picks up the embers of Fairport and Steeleye Span and continues to spark into the Wicker Man bonfire.
The finale song, ‘Super Tremolo’, simply weaves the melodic tapestry of this record to a final stitch. Those twin vocals sing a “green and pleasant” melody that is cast against rock guitar tension. Sure, this record never stops being a lot of other things. But, to once again quote Mississippi Fred McDowell, “My Baby She Gonna Just Jump And Shout”. And that’s what Darkness Brings The Wonders Home does: The Smoke Fairies “just jump and shout” in a way that never stops being a melodic folk record, but indeed, does “play rock ‘n’ roll”.
Artists’ website: https://www.musicglue.com/smokefairies
‘Disconnect’ – official video: