Amy Hollinrake has her feet planted in two worlds. She is an English feminist singer-songwriter combining folklore and mythology with contemporary sounds and instruments that are both contemporary and traditional. Creating a head spinning mix of yesterday and today, Sad Lady Songs Vol. 1 illustrates the way to successfully merge worlds often thought to be at odds with each other.
Sounds of the dulcimer take one back to another time, a simpler world. The sound can be deceiving, the gentle tones of ‘Dulcimer Song’ hide the lyrics in sheets of gauze, while guitar and dulcimer perform a gentle duet. Hollinrake’s voice captivates, a Sandy Denny for a new century, hinting at songs from a bygone age, yet in many ways remarkably up to date.
Modernising an old folk story ‘The Yorkshire Boggart’, with her song ‘Milk Jug’, the boggart follows around a woman unable to shake off the trauma of a failed relationship, she must learn from the pain, processing it. Musically, the banjo leads in directions less traditional while keyboards, guitars and violins swell. There is a strength that comes from being able to deal with the emotions that come through as Hollinrake sings, “Weighted down, and I’ll keep you now/ and I will put you in pride of place/ Watching you edges blur, like histories and I learned to love the bad taste.” The milk may be curdling, yet she is growing stronger.
Examining the tales of women drowning in folk songs, Hollinrake casts a new image for ‘It Draws The Same’. She finds a sense of liberation that comes from the notion of suicide as a way of escaping murder. Initially sounding tense and conflicted, the song comes alive once the decision has been reached. The band plays with a force and conviction that accentuated the essential rightness of the decision.
Violins and synthesizers frame the field of ‘Swallow’s Tune’. Caught up in the renewal and rebirth of the swallow, there is also the unending, unyielding paradox of being trapped in cycles that never change. Played out against the strains of synths and violins, along with Hollinrake’s dulcimer, one begins to understand the mysteries of Sad Lady Songs Vol. 1, seasons and cycles are in constant state of change. Yet on another level things remain constant. Amy Hollinrake understands both, creating music that revels in both our changing and unchanging worlds.