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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