Album | Anna Elias & The Forlorn Hope – The Valleys in the Flatlands

Formerly of Bodixa, Leeds songstress Anna Elias is connecting more fully with folk roots in this new project, which features husband Harvey as well as such luminaries of the UK folk scene as Karine Polwart and Saul Rose and even the Southwell Minster Choir.

Starting with a song called ‘Lullaby’ is a counter-intuitive move given the usual purpose of such a piece, but in this situation it can serve to simply cleanse the listener’s mind of life’s clutter and provide a blank canvas on which Elias’ wonderful voice can work its magic.

In the album-closing slot, where one might expect to find ‘Lullaby’, it is not a great stretch to instead discover ‘Into The Night’, a haunting piano number with the poignant refrain “surely hope is the brightest light” – a delightfully upbeat message to leave lingering in the mind upon the album’s conclusion.

Further stand-outs include love songs ‘Where We Stand’, ‘If You Were’ and the pacier ‘Sarah Jane’. The album provides just enough such changes of tempo to avoid becoming samey and ensure that the gentle numbers retain their beauty rather than blending into one to seem pedestrian. At 14 tracks, this danger is all the more acute, though three of that number are mere instrumental segues – ‘Via dela Rocca’, ‘Rue de Lille’ and ‘Shady Lane’ are all variations on the same tune, clocking in at under a minute apiece, and provide mere reflective interludes amid a record of delicate splendour.

Words: Tom White

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