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Jackie Oates - Lullabies (ECC)

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The danger with this new album by Jackie Oates is that you're likely to nod off before the first song is through. That's the nature of lullabies; they're just too soothing for their own good. Jackie's fifth solo album sees her team up once again with fellow Winterset refugee Belinda O'Hooley, whose sparse piano accompaniments adorn this delightful record, made up exclusively of lullabies and sleep songs. Anyone who has followed Jackie Oates' journey over the last few years will know that the Devon-based singer/musician immerses herself completely in each project with a passionate focus, as if it just might be the last project she ever does, whether it be Cornish fiddle tunes or World music adventures (with The Imagined Village) or maybe just the haunting songs of Alasdair Roberts; if a certain fascination comes, then the tunnel vision specs are on and the project is up and running before you can say hyperboreans (if you can say that at all).

The latest fascination appears to be lullabies, no less than fifteen of them to be precise, selected from various diverse sources. The project finds Jackie trawling the twilight zone for a variety of gentle songs, some written specifically as lullabies as well as one or two that just lend themselves to the cradle-rocking, sheep-counting crepuscular eventide, such as Paul McCartney's laconic Junk, a song that failed to be included on both The Beatles' White Album and Abbey Road, eventually being released on his self-titled debut solo LP. Now and then Jackie reveals a slightly quirky side, which sometimes ventures into darker places such as Alexander Beetle, the old Melanie song based on an AA Milne lyric, which can be taken as cute or creepy depending upon how tired you are, featuring a fiddle coda during which both Jackie and Belinda search around on all fours looking for the coleopteran escapee. If you recall the school room scene in The Wicker Man, where a child has attached a beetle to a nail via a piece of string in order to watch it 'go round and round, always the same way, poor thing..' it's that sort of creepy. But cute too.     
Adorned in a sleeve illustrated with Lizzy Stewart's haunting and naive artwork, the album also features traditional English, Scottish, Australian and Icelandic lullabies, guaranteed to cure your insomnia in the most pleasant way, with contributions courtesy of Tristan Seume, Barney Morse-Brown, Chris Sarjeant and guest vocalists Hugh Nankivill, Albert and Evelyn Hansell and Bara Grimsdottir.     
Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky