Release Date: Apr 28, 2015
Record label: Nonesuch
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Indie Folk, British Folk
Every few years I discover an album by a band whose music I don’t know, and I’m simply blown away by their talent, by how much their songs make me feel and imagine. Long ago it happened when a friend put on Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, and in more recent years with Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and Arcade Fire’s Funeral. It’s happened again, though this time not with a rock band but, to my surprise, with a British folk singer.
Olivia Chaney is being hailed as the new heroine of folk music in her native England, and one listen to her first full-length album, 2015's The Longest River, makes it clear she's everything she's cracked up to be -- a superb singer, a gifted multi-instrumentalist, a talented songwriter with a clear and distinct point of view, and an insightful interpreter of the work of other tunesmiths. At first glance, The Longest River recalls the work of Sandy Denny, mainly in the strength and clarity of Chaney's voice and her ability to sound determined and vulnerable at once. However, as much as Chaney has clearly studied Denny and the major U.K.
English multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter Olivia Chaney defies categorization. Her classical background, traditional English influences and modern day perspective could have combined to make a much more commercial sound than they do, but instead of going the babe-with-a-dulcimer route, Chaney seems comfortable with her distinctive sound.As a lyricist, Chaney projects an earnestness that comes off as defiantly uncool. A reference to a nursery rhyme, or a crack about "the longest river in Egypt," aren't played for laughs but rather go to more unpredictable places; she explores with her metaphors, rather than cracking wise.
Much lauded on her arrival a few years back, English singer-songwriter Olivia Chaney has taken her time with this debut album. Her aim proves sure. It’s a spare work, rarely using more than guitar and piano for her sharp but agile vocals, and adopting a neoclassical approach. Purcell’s There’s Not a Swain sits alongside the traditional False Bride and a trilling version of Alasdair Roberts’s lovely Waxwing.