A debut album from Katherine Priddy that exemplifies the storytelling qualities of folk music.
Release date: 25th June 2021
Label: Navigator Records
A lot of folk music thrives on storytelling. The debut album by Katherine Priddy, The Eternal Rocks Beneath exemplifies this key quality of the folk genre. If beautiful folk music isn’t telling stories, it is otherwise enchanting with its musical composition. The debut album by Katherine Priddy, The Eternal Rocks Beneath also exemplifies this key quality of the folk genre. Ultimately, that’s the review.
At this point, you could just click the link to the song below, agree that I’m definitely not wrong and then proceed to excitedly order the album.
Why such enthusiasm from this reviewer, though?
Priddy’s first album contains songs from her youth and early 20s, shaped by formative experiences and representing what now underpins her – fully-fledged and trying to fly in a turbulent world. Her distinctive voice, somewhere between Kirsty MacColl and Josienne Clarke, has an inviting, confessional tone and yet an enticing hint of other-worldliness.
The familiar folk tropes of love and loss run through many of the songs. Equally, the transition from innocence to experience can be felt strongly, in that the more you learn in life, the more your world view becomes sharper and less soft and fuzzy. That sharpness shows up life’s imperfections more starkly. It’s a sharpness that can hurt.
Track one, Indigo, sees a child’s love for nature, in particular a “tall, slender beech.” Mellow, mellifluous and melancholy, we follow its narrative as the child tells the tree stories and sleeps in its branches. This blissful intimacy ends when some swine of a storm “tears down the tree,” leaving the child care-worn and wounded: “Your troubles are old for a body so young.”
Immediately afterwards, Wolf (the title track of Priddy’s first EP) takes loose inspiration from Wuthering Heights and focuses on a lover who, in this case, is the storm. “I shouldn’t love you,” is the message the narrator tells herself, whilst recognising her inability to resist him. The driving drumbeat provides a robust and sinister heft, whilst the tin whistle carries more of the lightness and excitement that desire brings.
The Spring That Never Came depicts lost love, drenched in remembrance and stuck in past memories of sight and touch. About Rosie, as well as showcasing Priddy’s guitar picking, highlights how romantic relationships can restrict rather than enhance. The titular character learns to expect validation from others, rather than from within.
Loving someone who’s going to self-destruct is the essence of Icarus, one of two songs based on Greek myth. The agony of knowing the narrator cannot catch her beloved if he falls is further enhanced by her yearning: “God, you’re beautiful.”
She concludes the album with The Summer Has Flown. What could be more seasonally-affected suffering suggests instead that the passage of time is precisely what firms and strengthens the eternal rocks beneath. Memory can be harsh, but what it teaches us can be ultimately kind. As the song fades into prolonged birdsong (a nostalgic sound of Priddy’s childhood that also opens the album), she repeats the ever-quieter, soothing “Goodbye,” perhaps allowing the past to fade and recede.
Emotions are abstract and amorphous things. To try to capture them in the limited form of a lyric runs the risk of over-simplification. Priddy’s storytelling, however, allows you to go all-in on the empathy front and appreciate what it is to be a curiously flawed human.
Here’s Indigo from the album: