Listen blindfolded to Laura Marling’s haunting sophomore album and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re hearing a world-weary folk singer
I Speak Because I Can 4/5 Listen blindfolded to Laura Marling’s haunting sophomore album, I Speak Because I Can, and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re hearing a seasoned, world-weary folk singer. Her lyrics are philosophical nuggets drawn from years of hard living and loving, sung in a wide-ranging, elegiac croon tinged with sorrow. Marling just turned 20. That such a magnificent voice issues from a wispy Brit barely out of her teens makes this lovely album even more of an achievement.
The comforting warmth of producer Ethan Johns’s analog tones lend I Speak a distinctive ’70s tinge; ‘Made by Maid’ could be an outtake from Joni Mitchell’s Blue, while the storytelling that eclipses the stirring guitar lines on ‘Alpha Shallows’ recalls Sandy Denny’s appearance on the Led Zep classic ‘Battle of Evermore’. While the youngster is still carving out her own identity – there are nods to the folk-ballad tradition – she shines in her poetic lyricism and creative vocal inflection. And although Marling’s lyrical imagery is as English as can be, there are pinches of Dolly Parton. The Herefordshire village native can nail a Nashville-style cadence like a pro.
Marling’s songs are things of beauty. Her Mercury Prize-nominated 2008 debut, Alas, I Cannot Swim, was no less stunning, but this is the sound of the shift from adolescence to womanhood. Along with Emmy the Great, Rose Elinor Dougall and Florence and the Machine, Marling makes a sterling contribution to the recent surge of female-fronted British pop and folk. Mia Clarke Available now online.