Highlights: Frozen Time, Goodnight, London
This is the second album I’m reviewing this year that is based on original music and ‘borrowed’ lyrics. Only whereas Mike Scott of The Waterboys took his inspiration from a modernist poet, Thea Gilmore had a somewhat easier task: after all, British folk legend Sandy Denny obviously shaped these lyrics with chords in mind. As you would expect, Thea Gilmore does a fine job here: she makes these songs sound like her usual brand of contemporary folk – but occasionally with that unmistakably English, traditional feel.
Needless to say, these lyrics and these melodies blend like milk and honey, and most of these tunes could be easily mistaken for Gilmore’s own. Brooding, gorgeous, melodic songs like “Frozen Time” and “Long Time Gone” wouldn’t have been out of place on Avalanche or Harpo’s Ghost, and it’s only when the Fairport Convention spirit/instrumentation kicks in (“London” is particularly noteworthy here) that you start noticing Denny’s presence. It’s all done with great love and taste, and even though the record’s second side is slightly underwhelming (tracks like “Sailor” are a little too vague musically), Don’t Stop Singing is as cozy and profound as a warm summer night – good to have it in the middle of November.
While starting out as a serious songwriter in mid-60’s, Lou Reed often asked Andy Warhol to give him a couple of lines so as to build a song around them. That so many classics were written that way is a testimony to Reed’s great talent. And this is something I can see here: an artist finding her voice amid someone else’s images and ideas. Her first album this year was a pretty straight-faced album of covers (John Wesley Harding), but this is something different and, in the long run, more satisfying.