A truly hypnotic and eloquent roots Americana exploration, The Garden of Love: Songs of William Blake beautifully and unexpectedly matches two powerful voices, two centuries, continents, and cultures apart. The mastermind is Martha Redbone, an Independent Music Award winner renowned for blending Native American vibes from her Cherokee and Choctaw background with R&B grooves, blues, and dashes of Appalachian folk. Her muse is the compelling poetry of English Romantic (and pre-Romantic) poet William Blake, who died in 1827. One of the fullest expressions of her stark and powerful, stripped-down aesthetic, Redbone -- working with producer John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band -- pits her vocal incantations and harmonic textures against a swampy ambient acoustic guitar background on the title track. Her vocal modulation is interesting, as tunes like "Hear the Voice of the Bard" and the rollicking "I Rose Up at the Dawn of Day" feature urgent gospel-influenced shout-outs, while others like the lyrical, swaying singalong "How Sweet I Roamed" and the easy-rolling "A Dream" and sparsely eloquent "Sleep Sleep Beauty Bright" feature a sweeter, more romantic approach. Appropriate for its subject matter, "I Heard an Angel Singing" is a haunting, ethereal piece with chamber music instrumentation. The overall effect is that listeners who were not English majors will experience some of the most enchanting and emotionally rich poetry ever penned, while also having the opportunity to get to know all of the folk and gospel-driven influences that drive Redbone's unique, ever evolving muse.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran