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'Deeper Woods'   

-  Label: 'Thrill Jockey Records'
-  Genre: 'Folk' -  Release Date: '11th May 2018'

Our Rating:
North Carolina's Sarah Louise Henson is one half of the House & Land folk duo; her partner being Black Twig Pickers' and Pelt fiddler Sally Anne Morgan.

As a solo artist, she was previously known primarily for her impressive solo 12-string guitar technique but for her third album she literally finds her own voice, singing with such confidence, authenticity and range that you wonder what took her so long.

Morgan's violin playing can be heard on a couple of the seven tunes but its Sarah Louise's dextrous finger picking that really catches the ear.

The songs are fully immersed in the natural world and rooted in Appalachian primitive folk but amount to far more than an exercise in reinventing tradition. As a result there's both a reassuring familiarity and a liberating sense of freedom.

The music is less obviously freaky than an artist such as Josephine Foster but there's something of the same level of ethereal intensity and unforced singularity to her work.

It begins impressively with two twisted pastoral tails - Bowman's Root and When Winter Turns; the distorted electric guitar on the latter has a distinctly psychedelic flavour.

The synth arrangement for The Field That Touches My House And Yours is less compelling and the curious multi-tracked a cappella vocals on the hymnal closing track, Fire Pink And Milkweed make for a downbeat finale.

It's with the three longer tracks Pipevine Swallowtails, Up On The Ridge and On Nights When I Can't Sleep that her talents really come to the fore. These capture the spiritual heart of her intricate compositions with her emotive singing backed by atmospheric drones and free-flowing instrumental sections.

This is one of those records you want to press upon those who say they hate folk music. The range and complexity of the songs explore the full possibilities of the genre to create a blend of personal expressiveness and a profound understanding of folk's role as social music.

When asked what she appreciates most in a work of art, Sarah Louise replied "sincerity and surprise" and these two qualities can certainly be found in this exceptional album.

Sarah Louise at Bandcamp
  author: Martin Raybould

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SARAH LOUISE - Deeper Woods