Jackie Oates – Gracious Wings: Album Review

Jackie Oates and her team cast an airy lightness coated in a fragile quality on her new set.

Release Date: 2nd September 2022

Label: Needle Pin Records

Format: CD / digital

How time flies. Sixteen years on from a MOJO Top Ten Album of the Year nomination for her debut album, Jackie Oates continues an ever-broadening career path with her eighth album. It’s one that sees her once again confidently tackling traditional English folk songs together with her own originals and a couple of unexpected little gems.

Backed up by a strong lineup in fantasy folk stars terms, by John Spiers, Megan Henwood, John Parker, Mike Cosgrove and Jon Wilks, Gracious Wings finds Jackie channeling her new music via personal and professional life challenges. Her role as music psychotherapist sits in the background of a special album that rings brightly with the healing and therapeutic qualities which offer a calming and restful experience.

Astutely positioned, When I Was A Fair Maid is a sprightly reminder of the way that the guitar and mandolin ring and chime in unison, countered with the gentle lull and easy grace of the Robin Tells Of Winter/Gracious Wings medley. The latter a Morris tune that puts to bed any stereotypical visions of Morris dancing as a strange and twee custom, whilst the bird theme comes from a Ruth Tongue poem, her name a reminder of her understated position within folklore writing and gathering. Similarly, Tammy Toddles that could easily sit within her lullaby work.

The delicacy expounded on the opening tracks continues; both Jon Wilks and Megan Henwood offer sensitive contributions as Jackie weaves her tales and interpretations as the double bass low end from John Parker, particularly when he uses the bow, makes for a lovely richness. And should there be a sudden pining for the chance to shake a leg at something, the Mike Cosgrave/James O’Grady tunes that partly acknowledge that most bizarre of children’s TV cartoons, is certainly a hip swayer that follows on from the rare sighting of John Spiers committing a lead vocal to wax (or the digital recording equivalent) with the words remaining in the original Basque of Iruten Ari Nuzu. Sounds most exotic but it’s about making wool…

While Lament To The Moon might contain some standard folk tropes – lovers meeting, the closing of day, fair maids -it’s a stately arrangement that sounds strangely spacious, underpinned by the Spiers melodeon and Anglo concertina and Jackie’s own viola. “There’s nothing as sweet as when two lovers meet” has a warmth that transgresses the simplicity. Talking of which, of the two covers within, the sublime On And On by The Longpigs is perfect for this outfit while anything she could have picked by Tom Waits (in this case, Time Time Time) would result in an emotional poignancy. As the closing track, it’s a fitting tribute to her fellow Ladies Of Nettlebed.

Her first album in four years…Well, we may have waited longer for less but in a glut of activity, we’re spoiled as a series of Jackie Oates Trio (Jackie, Mike Cosgrave, John Parker) live dates in September and October hoves into view. Gracious Wings sets up a mouthwatering prospect.

Jackie Oates online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube / Bandcamp

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