Hobby/Horse Rec. The Owl Service : A Garland Of Song (UK,rec.2006-2007)****
Like the liner notes of Steven Collins say, it is very clear how this collection “was born from a love for traditional music…As the album progressed my thirst for traditional song grew and I began unearthing music from the original revival which I’d never heard before. Every day I was finding new material…By the time I’d completed the album, with the help of some wonderful collaborators, I’d managed to truly get inside of these songs and I ended up feeling as though I’d written them myself. I set out to make the most exciting English folk album since “Liege and Lief”…”.
The result is between a sparse sensitive acapella tradition (on the right moment, with just one track) and a more arranged idea that absolutely recalls this ambition enriched by the heritage of all the UK folk expansions. It assembled a nice collection of not too known traditional songs, which alone is worth checking out.
I am not sure to which groups I can compare many tracks well, but the care for them and feeling for them made the result sound like a lost album of the 70s UK folk area. We must realize how in the last few years discounting this part of British folk heritage, rekindled it with their own identities, and have been brought to our attention many US bands, so it is about time that modern UK follows with as much strength and with a comparable feeling for sensitive originality, outside the usual folkrock commerciality and their greatly hyped market. What contributes to the quality, is that Steven Collins also attracted the right persons, like female singers who have that quality to provoke a world of a cultivated sensitivity (can’t think of a better word for it), often with a court-ship quality, while he himself contributes with an at many points nice Trees-like electric guitar, percussion, mandolin, bird sounds, glockenspiel and even a few times sitar in combination with other softly dancing stringed instruments or gentle percussion and other textures. Each contributing singer adds her own flavour, and they fit well together with the others. Nancy Wallace's voice for instance easily recalls Mandy Morton from Spriguns ; I must think a bit longer with which mood or sphere I would describe the others. Another great moment we can hear on “Apple Tree Man”, with a whole “Wickerman”-like semi-communal or neo-60s background chorus, for which the participating occasional members had been called as one entity as “The Cricketfield Chorus”. On the album, all tracks flow beautifully from one perfect mood to the next. The collection certainly and definitely deserves a real thick vinyl LP edition as well, instead of this ridiculously limited 100 self-burned privately issued copies only. With the right promotion or just a few collectors knowing of this, I am sure a vinyl edition and also a real cd would easily sell well. Labels ?
Most probably it is only a matter of time of more recognition, because as the next project the group is currently also working on an EP of new material with Alison O'Donnell (formerly of Mellow Candle). Such an occasion from this quality should get them some attention soon.
Owl Service is led by Steven Paul Collins (many instruments) and Jo Lepine (vocals). They have been joined by Dom Cooper (voice/songwriting on 10), Martyn Kember-Smith (fiddle on 10), Diana Collier (vocals on 7,10), Pamela Wyn Shannon (banjo,vocals on 5) (review of her new release see below), Hermione Swinford (harp on 2), Nancy Wallace (vocals on 4) and Laura Hulse & Paul Micklethwaite (collectively known as Yealand Redmayne, on vocals and guitar on 13).
The group is currently also working on an EP of new material with Alison O'Donnell (formerly of Mellow Candle).
This led to an official release->