Traditional British folk is a tough genre to begin your career in. James Raynard, like many a budding minstrel, found his first muse in Bob Dylan, but intensive folklore studies at Sheffield University redirected his internal compass back to the rustic songs of his childhood. The dark and hopeless tales of drink, spirits, and doomed love that inhabit all good English homes proved too great a temptation for the young multi-instrumentalist, and he soon found himself a friend in folk legend Martin Carthy. You can hear Carthy's influence on Strange Histories, a sparse, self-arranged rendering of 11 traditional pieces that also brings to mind the work of A.L. Lloyd, Ewan MacColl, Paul Clayton, and Peter Bellamy. Raynard's elegant baritone, understated fiddling, and intricate guitar drift through Kinnersly Castle like the dead themselves, pausing in forgotten corners and dusty towers to consider their fates. Fans of Alasdair Roberts, Patrick Wolf, and John Wesley Harding's Love Hall Tryst project will find much to love here, as will anybody fond of Victorian ghost novels, roaring fires, and leather bound books.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger