Album | Lucy Farrell – We Are Only Sound

Lucy Farrell has been a name on the English folk circuit for a number of years, duetting with Jonny Kearney for a while and gaining acclaim in supporting slots or the likes of The Unthanks and Bellowhead. After winning the best duo award at 2010 Radio 2 Folk Awards and releasing the wonderful studio album Kite a year later, they went their separate ways. Farrell went onto work with many names from the likes of Eliza Carthy to Modern Fairies and she went onto win further Folk Awards when being named best group in 2017 as part of The Furrow Collective. To say this debut solo release has been a long-time coming is a wild understatement. The album may be a surprise addition to 2023’s already weighty gallery of new releases, but the fact that it is as wonderful as it is should come as no surprise at all.

Farrell manages to write songs from the heart, pulling on the experiences of the past eight years. These are years that have seen her go the highs of motherhood to the lows of breakups. “I think these themes and ideas are universal. They would resonate with other people too” Farrell has said and she’s absolutely right.

The album begins with ‘Paperthin’, where her vibrant and contained vocals begins a journey along 12 tender explorations of human feelings and emotions. Always tender in their delivery, the muscle comes from the clarity of the message and the sharp backing of the musicians involved in the recordings. The album was made at Wedlock Abbey, home of the actress Gabrielle Drake, sister of Nick. The songs feature Nick’s guitar and piano – beautifully played by Thomas Lenthall on the shimmeringly gorgeous title track – and also feature the likes of Ben Nicholls on double bass, MG Boulter on lap steel and Kris Drever on guitar and backing vocals. Album producer Andy Bell even weighs on percussion and adds minimalistic electronic noises. The result is an album that sounds sparse but secure.

Farrell even contributes on the musical front herself, adding viola to the yearning ‘Keep On’. ‘Never Enough’ is the clearest exploration of a the breakdown of relationships, talking of holding tongues when you should be talking, whilst backed by the richness of Drever’s guitar. “I turn the trigger on myself/and lose the battle with my will/I might choose someone else”. Her songwriting is wonderful, a welcome arrow to her bow, allowing her to connect with her audience in a quietly personal way. ‘Sit Down’ is a beautifully lo-fi piece of music, with the sound of water rushing by accompanying it along its two minutes while Drever steps up to duet on the gorgeous ‘But For You’.

Farrell has stated that she finds it easier to articulate her feelings through songs than through speech and you can only hope that life rewards her with a more positive few years to write the music that she easily deserves. You hope that this is just the beginning of the journey, a welcome step along the way to happiness.