Let's be honest: Carbeth had set the bar really high. The release of Trembling Bells' debut album in the summer of 2009 had been a surprise, and a radiant one at that. Their heady blend of country-rock feeling, folk roots, and wacky humor -- and the odd-couple pairing of Lavinia Blackwall's voice with Alex Neilson's -- worked brilliantly though inexplicably well. Released a year later, Abandoned Love eschews the second-album syndrome by building on the group's strengths without stripping anything away. The songwriting has matured and, most noticeably, the comic-relief element found on the first album and generally embodied by Neilson ("Your Head Is the House of Your Tongue," for example) has been toned down and tucked at the tail end of the track list (in the form of "You Are on the Bottom [And the Bottle's on My Mind]," overtly country-rock with pedal steel and fiddle and all the bells and whistles). "Adieu, England," "Darling," and "Love Made an Outlaw of My Heart" stand out, the first two as perfect examples of Trembling Bells' take on medieval-inspired folk songs, the latter as their unique brand of country/classic rock. Blackwall's soaring voice is better used on this album, and overall the disparate influences of the band are better integrated into a distinctive group sound. However, there is nothing here that stands out like the gripping "Willows of Carbeth" did on the first album. Carbeth was an instant like; Abandoned Love is more of a grower. But the folk fire's still burning, and with this second opus, Trembling Bells have proven they are more than a flash in the pan.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture