Lady Maisery – Tender: Album Review

First album in six years from Lady Maisery – worth the wait…

Release Date: 11th November 2022

Label: Lady Maisery Records

Format: digital / CD

Yes, for the record, the first album in six years. The old adage about absence making the heart grow fonder is one we usually churn out at this point, yet with the various ‘things to be going on with’ in the interim, you don’t always appreciate how much time has passed. There’s the thing that must not be named, plus Hannah James’ Jigdoll adventures, various sisterly things going on with the Rheingans sisters and the Askew sisters doing all sorts of things plus Rowan Rheingans own solo work/Dispatches On The Red Dress work which have kept the three of temthem busy.

However, when they come together in this combination, something special happens. Like the Spice Girls’ song. when two, or in this case three, become one. Their appearance at the 2022 Manchester Folk Festival was a reminder of what we’ve been missing as well as a gentle nudge that Tender was almost with us. A handful of beautiful live premieres gave encouraging signs. Appetite truly whetted and with the finished product now in hand, the musical palette is varied and intricately crafted. In particular, the hum of the harmonium gives a warm depth and along with the richness of the viola and organ, provides a strength on which to build.

Tender is a collection that began to form during the 2020 lockdown; it gathers original songs written by Lady Maisery with Hazel Askew emerging as a strong contributor, as well as unique interpretations of work by Björk, Tracy Chapman and the late Lal Waterson that enhance the concept of the title. The eleven songs address multiple themes – age and the passing of time, familial ties, and sacrifices we continue to make in the turbulence of our world while hope lies in recalling the beauty of clear skies and reflecting on the wonders of nature in trees and birdsong. At the core of course, are three voices as one.

All the years of playing and singing, together and apart, feed into making Tender the album Lady Maisery were destined to make.

While their writing reaches new peaks, the trio have the guile to dip into the catalogues of renowned female songwriters to set the seal on an album that packs a punch yet touches the soul. Their deceptively simple arrangement of Tracy Chapman’s 3000 Miles results in a hypnotic pulse that builds on the rustic banjo and along with the barren arrangement of Bjork’s Hyperballad, provides Lady Maisery with an additional spike to their armoury with a pair of killer punches.

The cleverness in Tender is in what appears understated and minimal, yet is exquisitely crafted. Like the birds that often inhabit their thoughts and their songs (and Bird That I Do Not Know and Birdsong are personal highlights of Tender), words and notes cascade, dip, glide and swoop, intertwining like things of wonder; they sit awhile before taking busy flight again. Echoes finds the trio adding some daring experimentation with voices and sounds mingling whilst The Fall is genuinely experimental; mournful and minimal with a viola line that’s deep and mournful, bluesy even whilst there are hints at something ethnic that briefly drift in and out. All floats over a deep rumble and rhythmic pulse. A piece that may briefly disguise the suppressed anger and rage and a strong candidate maybe for the next time Peter Gabriel decides to revive his scratch my back project.

Hannah describes how Noughts And Crosses is interpreted as a love song; understandable although maybe more a song of hope as the starkness gives way again to a rich opulence that’s maintained for a finale and brought home by the beautiful Birdsong.

They may carry the tag of being bold and audacious, but the iron fist is clothed in a deceptively lush velvet glove. Never mind the crippling crisis in the cost of domestic heating bills. Buy this album, switch off the central heating and be warmed by Tender. Not an album, but an experience.

Here’s a helping of that exquisite richness we mention in Bird I Do Not Know:

Lady Maisery online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube / Bandcamp

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