Posts Tagged ‘The Black Twig Pickers’

Sally Anne Morgan

Anyone who has followed The Black Twig Pickers or House and Land over the past couple of years might be familiar with the prowess of Sally Anne Morgan, but on her solo LP for Thrill Jockey, she’s truly letting her own voice shine through in a record rooted in the traditions of Appalachian and English Folk. With her fiddle, banjo, and guitar at the ready, Morgan is a band in her own right, compiling in the studio the kind of loose, pub-slung singalongs that wouldn’t feel out of place on a rainy day in the English countryside nor on a porch in the wooded confines of deep set East Coast mountains. She’s a traditionalist, but not constrained by tradition. The songs could well enter the traditional canon, but they take flight in ways that are more progressive than they first let on. There’s a carful tenderness to her songs too — peeking through in verdant strains on wistful compositions like “Garden Song,” which tracks its melody like water seeping into soil and blooms unfolding into an late spring sunlight.

As Sally noted in her Hidden Gems piece for the site, she has a particular fascination with UK folk rock, stemming from the Fairport tradition that caught her ear in her 20s, and that comes through nicely with the help of Nathan Bowles (Black Twig Pickers, Pelt, Pigeons) who adds percussion to several tracks here, elevating them from loose sketches to something more stridently propulsive. Whether with a full band or by herself, though Morgan fills the room with a sound that’s almost impossible to ignore. Fiddle lines weave bittersweet curls through the air, banjos pluck out a ramble that’s as insistent as the nearest creek, and above the instruments Sally’s vocals peek around the bends with a heartbreaking delivery that’s somewhere between hope and lament, both are perfect for these days. This record is a companion piece to a hard year — a comfort, a companion, a consolation in the night.



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House and Land

It’s been such a noisy year, in so many ways, that its nice to sink into the sparse trappings of Sally Anne Morgan and Sarah Louise Henson’s traditional Appalachian folk. Not that they allow such folk to become a place of complacent quietude, rather they’re able to wield solemnity and austerity as fiercely as many would a cracked amplifier through fuzztone. However, their resolve and mastery of traditional instrumentation (fiddle, shruti box, banjo, 12-string guitar and bouzouki) shrouds the record in a layer of acoustic shiver that centers the listener as it unfolds in its own naked strength.

The pair met while Henson was opening for The Black Twig Pickers, of whom Morgan is a member. The two women dig deep into the roots of not only American folk traditions, but the natural drone that permeates many historical musical styles. Both songwriters come from a tradition of not only folk but experimental music and the incorporation of microtonality and drone into the canon seems fitting to their background. While its more subtle here than, say, in a neo-classical composition, the drone and harmonics add a darkness and complexity that separates this from lightweight folk on many levels.

More so, they also use the traditional songwriting as a platform to subtly update the songs’ intent for a new age; either adopting the original male voice and making it their own or changing the song’s lyrics to offer a female vantage. This can only resonate deeper in a year marked by so many presumptuous lawmakers speaking for masses whose voices they’re barely hearing. Traditional folk is a road that’s been visited time and again, but there’s still ways to make it, if not fresh, then resonant. House and Land are certainly making the form ring true.



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