My Mother's Children 8½ ( 2008 ) Because You're Young / Free Grace / Honey / Concerning A Frozen Sparrow / Ballad Of The Talking Dog / Pygmalion / Meanwhile? / The Bell They Gave You / Island / Exeunt
She has a voice that evokes the 60s folk revival, Anne Briggs and the rest. The songs are sparse and recorded in seemingly the same fashion those final four Nick Drake tunes were recorded - think 'Black Eyed Dog' for instance. Mary Hampton also reminds one of Nico, that songstress who grew expotentially to the point where her albums 'The Marble Index' and 'Desert Shore' and now hailed as classics by those that know them. No less than folk royalty Eliza Carthy has hailed 'My Mothers Children' as an album she's going to love for life so let me expand a little more.
Here we have ten original compositions celebrating the land, the people, the air and the sea. Songs that sound so far removed from anything you might hear on radio, television, blaring out of coffee shops and bars that it may as well exist in another century altogether. Strangely timeless then - the sounds of dreams and nightmares and quiet times - moments of reflection. She can do these blindingly obvious moments of simplicity that make you wonder why the hell anybody else hadn't done it before, eg, the wonder that is 'Because You're Young'. On the otherside of the coin, we have several free-flowing pieces that resist the term composition - they are more like paintings, or rather more accurately, short video-clips without context or book-marks. We've got wurlitzer, sea shells, whistling, cornet, accordian, piano, guitar, voice, etc. I gave my love a talking dog, sing ovy, sing ivy. She broke his skull with her tiny fist and she bundled him off to the taxidermist.
Highlights include... well, almost everything, if we're being honest. Yes, this is an often fragile sound and won't fit every occasion but when it does hit, it overwhelms you and becomes your world. An album to drop out and sit back to. 'Ballad Of A Talking Dog' combines great harmonies, clicking, a happy sounding refrain and dark lyrics. 'Free Grace' is like a female Nick Drake, 'Pygmalion' hints at the kind of dreams and landscapes painted by Nico, 'Island' is quite scary with sparse guitar, wailing cello and a vocal enough to silence an entire room. Imagine this being played in your local Zavvi store and you'll know what I mean.
So? Well, not everybody will love this album in the same way not everybody loves war or peace or Barack Obama. Doesn't mean this isn't a truly stunning debut album of the kind that appears very, very rarely.