Sue Harding – Darkling: Album Review

Sue Harding gets up close and personal as she explores the resonance of Darkling.

Release Date: 30th September 2022

Label: self-released

Format: digital / CD

Sue Harding, from the West Country, yet with a hint of wanderlust about her journey, combines with Beth Porter and Josh Clark on Darkling. A set through which she bravely avoids the route that takes in traditional and covers and offers twelve original songs on the more common themes of loss, redemption, hope and survival.

Perhaps it’s her current location but the landscape and countryside provide the inspiration for her to channel the inspiration provided by late Victorian poetry (and that world) that emerges in the form of a lush contemporary version of folk music. Josh Clark at Get Real Audio has captured an up close and intimate feel as well as a handful of ambient and collected sounds which offer a hint of atmosphere to the core acoustic guitar and vocal.

The latter is evident as early as the opening seconds and the breathy wind chime effect that appears on Fallen as the sea becomes the inspiration for musings on broken relationships and the fall from grace. Kudos indeed for the role of the engineering work that brings these songs to life, taking their acoustic roots into orbit and creating something beyond the well-worn female singer/songwriter template.

Tennyson’s The Lady Of Shalott is transformed to an attic room and there’s a rustic charm about Silver And Dust that harks back to previous Harding Americana dalliances. The latter also makes a mark on Old Smokey’s Lullaby which offers a much gentler and intimate experience while she explores – with utmost respect – the gospel -tinged The Light Of Day that which could easily shift into the realms of romantic croon with the addition of a little backing “bom-bom-bom-bom.”

However, for a key moment, check out Hyrda. The influence of Leonard Cohen is strong in the sobriety where the Greek island on which The General spent some time provides the canvas for a typically Cohen-esque bittersweet tale. Delivered too, in what’s becoming a familiar haunting tone characterised by a recognisable, fragile quiver. The final coupling of The Dryad’s Love Song and The Birchwood is particularly potent. The former is built on another one of those Josh Clark ambiences that enhances the guitar part and along with the distant tumble of percussion, to perfectly capture Harding’s visions of a Summer evening with a tree spirit (the Dryad) waiting down by the river. Perhaps the most fully realised arrangement and all the better for it. The Birchwood meanwhile brings us full circle back to a rustic picture given the breath of Beth Porte’s cello. The idealistic Harding notion that the woods are a place “dark and sacred, where you can be anything you want and embrace the mystery of the night” is reinforced. The power and resonance of the very word ‘darkling’ given musical spirit.

Here’s a flavour of Sue Harding with Hydra:

Sue Harding online: website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

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