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Molly Evans - Deep Time and Narrow Space (Self Release)
Let's start with the most important part of a good review: this EP is spectacularly good. Go and buy a copy now. Done that? Okay, good. Now we can start talking about it… and that might start to get complex…. because much like the oral folk tradition, or Chinese whispers, or the Hollywood blockbuster Inception, any attempt we make to explain these songs will be a retelling of a retelling of a retelling of a story…
That's because the songs of Molly Evans on DEEP TIME AND NARROW SPACE are themselves retellings of the stories of Alan Garner. Those stories of Alan Garner are largely retellings of older (Garner would argue universal) stories.
I was entirely unfamiliar with the work of Alan Garner before this EP turned up. It transpires that Garner is a novelist best known for his children's fantasy novels and his retellings of traditional British folk tales. Garner is part novelist, part poet, part collector of folk stories.
So, presuming you've already brought Deep Time and Narrow Space you now need to go and get yourself a copy of Collected Folk Tales by Alan Garner. That’s what we did next.
Got it? Great. Read it? Okay, good. It's good isn't it? We'll continue.
Molly attributes the catalyst for this project to the melody she's set Maggoty's Wood to, a melody which started to form unbidden upon her first reading of the poem. There's something exciting that happens there; when one artist inspired by the work of another. The result is a sense of exploration and discovery throughout the songs… this is a landscape filled with Hob-goblins, Faerie Kings and Bogarts. These songs conjure those images and landscapes with ease, and you get a certain sense that you're being guided through Garner’s Cheshire-inspired landscape by Molly herself.
Molly mentions on the CD's sleeve notes that the songs are "texturally and melodically inspired by the English folk song tradition". She's certainly achieved that remit. With Andy Bell producing the album they've managed across just 6 songs to produce songs that somehow call to mind June Tabor (Maggoty’' Wood), Faustus (Mist) and Kate Rusby (Bryer and Bonfire)… but despite that it’s an undeniably unique sound with a vocal delivery that's manages to continuously dance along the edges of dirgeful without ever ceasing to be pleasant.
The quality of playing and productions is absolutely top rate with Molly Evans on vocals and duet concertina, Jack Rutter on guitars, bouzouki, banjo and duet concertina and Archie Churchill-Moss on Melodeon. Jack Rutter and Archie Churchill-Moss have a long history of creating beautiful music together (as two thirds of Moore Moss Rutter), and they provide the perfect ambiance for this body of work.
This EP is an absolute delight. The story of Gobbleknoll (the opening story in Garner's Collected Folk Tales and the closing track on Molly Evans' Deep Time and Narrow Space) is an absolute gem. Who wouldn't love a Sioux legend about mischievous shape-shifting sword-wielding rabbits battling man eating caves?!
Molly Evans has created an exceptionally enjoyable CD of music which deserves repeated listening. The result is a glimpse into the world of Alan Garner that leaves us wanting to read more of his work, whilst equally leaving us in anticipation of hearing more from Molly Evans.
Rob Swan & Ange Hardy