Ward Knútur Townes – Unanswered: Album Review

Fascinating international collaboration packed with a subtle falodoorum.

Release Date: 6th October 2023

Label: Betty Beetroot

Format: digital / CD

The combined talents of Iceland, Canada and Derbyshire; an alliance forged by a global pandemic where 60 musicians from 16 countries made music in a virtual collaboration. The spark between Lucy Ward, Svavar Knútur and Adyn Townes igniting a roaring flame, resulting in a startling debut album

Lucy Ward we’re pretty familiar with via a trio of superlative records across the past decade – A Single Flame, I Dreamt I Was A Bird and Pretty Warnings. Her return is most welcome, now a seasoned version of the bright young talent of 2012. Svavar Knútur and Adyn Townes are lesser known quantities on our pages, but that’s the beauty – no expectation, except having Lucy Ward on your team is a major coup and after an experience with Unanswered, there’s the increased certainty we’ll remember their names.

Eleven songs skirt around the fringes of Folk, Pop Country and beyond while the narrative dips into topical observations, mystery, love and folklore. A dreamy and mellow mood is set by the opening pieces of which the themes behind Astronaut add to the expansive tone. Gentle acoustic guitars (with some subtle support from Evan McCosham on bass, Steve MacLachlan on drums and synth and Sarah Matthews on viola and violin) and vocals that intertwine and combine, are the order of the day.

Seasons sees them getting into the head of Johnny Cash and his true love June (the “goodbye June” of the lyric) in a sensitive and exquisitely tender four minutes. Adyn’s carefully enunciated vocal encapsulates the sentiment of not just Johnny and June but the sense of loss experienced by such soulmates. So magically entwined are some souls, that living without the other can be too much to bear.

A romantic and swirling Retro Gallic vibe carries Isn’t It Funny? where the greater presence of strings carry a significant weight. The lyric is pure Icelandic folklore though; mystery and Mermen, but the first half leads to a stunning Everything that’s worth the admission price alone. Swinging with a gorgeous melody in the same way that Lucy did on the beautifully lush Velvet Sky. Droplets of guitar and an understated percussion part accompany the thought-provoking “Why’ve you got everything, Why’ve I got nothing at all” and “This could be you, But it was me” lines that question inequality and fortune.

Aurora has a hint of Sting’s Fragile before evolving into an altogether different beast, swelling into a Lucy ward tour de force while Medusa has a haunting quality that could see Michael Stipe agonising over. Again, while we’re on the theme of Sting/The Police, the piano lines triggers a reminder of Invisible Sun. That same haunting quality takes over the finale that commences with the title track – gleaned from a true tale where “the phone’s disconnected but still rings” and the closing piece Orgar Brim recalls some of Lucy’s darker moments (check For The Dead Men, I Cannot Say I Will Not Speak), the drone setting up a brooding menace. Retaining the lyric in Icelandic, the controlled tone conjures up ominous images of invaders emerging from dense mist while the actual words translate into descriptions of the wildness of nature.

An upcoming tour and their incoming appearance at Manchester Folk Festival is a mouthwatering prospect. A trio born of strange circumstance, the merging of cultures and talents results in music from out on the edge of the stars.

Watch the trio perform Seasons:

Ward Knútur Townes online: Official Website / Lucy Ward / Svavar Knútur

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