Isobel Campbell

Milk White Sheets

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Before she recorded Ballad of the Broken Seas with Mark Lanegan, Isobel Campbell recorded the breathtakingly beautiful Milk White Sheets. Instead of the showy country balladry she and Lanegan laid down, here Campbell delves deep into the sounds of 1960s British folk. In the liner notes she comes right out and says that Milk White Sheets was inspired by the music of female folk giants Shirley Collins, Jean Ritchie, and Anne Briggs. It's no stretch to say that Campbell has created an album that stands shoulder to shoulder with anything her idols released. Everything about Milk White Sheets is enchanting and lovely. The arrangements are intimate and small; mainly built around acoustic guitars and Campbell's voice but made lively with the addition of cellos, glockenspiel, percussion, and on the instrumental "James," string arrangements that call to mind Robert Kirby's wonderful work with Nick Drake. The songs Campbell picks to cover are always interesting choices, and her own compositions are sublime. As an indication of just how authentic her songs sound, it's difficult to tell the songs she composed from the traditional folk songs like "Reynardine" and "Loving Hannah" that she covers. Best of all is Campbell's voice. While she's a fine pop singer and a lovely country crooner, her tender and seductive vocals are a revelation. Whether breathily cooing through the sweet "Cachel Wood" or yipping through "Yearning," she has never sounded this good before. It truly sounds like she was born to sing this autumnal and very British kind of folk. Hopefully her fans will stick with her on this fascinating detour, and hopefully she herself will keep releasing records this intimate, beautiful, and melancholy.

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