Fay Hield

Looking Glass

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Even before Fay Hield released this debut, she'd made waves as the first signing in a decade to the venerable Topic folk label. The question is, can she live up to all that hype? Although she's not the finished article yet, Looking Glass is an impressive beginning. She's picked a few fairly well-known pieces for the album, like "The Banks of the Nile" and "Sheepcrook and Black Dog," but there is plenty of the unfamiliar here. The backing is sparse, with no full band and often just the scraping of fiddles, and it's all the more powerful for it. Hield has an unusual voice, darker and Northern, but with a unique, endearing sound, especially on "The Looking Glass" with its unusual octave jumps. She works with sympathetic figures (Jon Boden, who plays several instruments here and co-produces, is her partner in life as well as music) who accentuate her music. She's powerful on longer ballads, such as "Kemp Owen," while still maintaining a powerful presence on the shorter songs. Even unaccompanied, as she is on "The Shepherd's Daughter," she has an indefinable quality that bodes very well for the future. After such a good debut, Fay Hield looks set for a glorious singing career.

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