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Mary Hampton Folly (2011) 

                      Mary Hampton – Folly
Location: Brighton, England
Album release: October 3, 2011
Record Label: Teaspoon Records
Website: http://maryhampton.org/shop/shop.html
MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/maryhampton

Review by Jon O'Brien
Making full use of her brand-new, four-piece band Cotillion, Brighton-based folk singer Mary Hampton‘s second album, Folly, may be a slightly more expansive record than her sparsely produced 2008 debut, My Mother’s Children, but it’s still her ethereal gliding vocals which remain her most valuable asset. Whether they’re swooping effortlessly over the gothic cello drone of “Forget Me Not” and the string-soaked adaptation of the Emily Dickinson poem, “No. 32,” or providing an eerie sense of melancholy on the achingly tender ballad “Lullaby for the Beleaguered” and the a cappella, sea shanty-styled closer “Pear Tree,” Hampton’s mixture of whimsy, eeriness, and intensity somehow manages to bring something new to a sound steeped in tradition.
Indeed, its nine tracks couldn’t be more old-school if they tried: check the fluttering flutes, enchanting steam pipes, and drum roll rhythms of opener “The Man Behind the Rhododendron,” which evoke the Victorian era which the empirical lyric themes are based on; the gentle brass section of “Hoax and Benison” which lends a wartime jazz feel to the yearning torch song, and the Middle Eastern-tinged acoustic balladry of “Kiss V” sounding like something that would be played during a medieval coronation. Indeed, it’s a testament to Hampton’s songwriting skills that the originals feel just as timeless as the two covers on offer here, a haunting birdsong-sampling rendition of mid-17th century folk tune “Benjamin Bowamaneer,” and a lilting, banjo-plucking interpretation of Blind Mamie Forehand’s gospel-blues classic “Honey in the Rock.” Of course, with its focus on the historical Folly is unlikely to be embraced by the current nu-folk mainstream, but it’s a spine-tingling listen which should enchant the majority of those who happen to stumble across it.

1. The Man behind the Rhododendron [04:29]
2. Benjamin Bowmaneer [06:22]
3. Forget-me-not [03:36]
4. Kiss V [04:50]
5. Hoax and Benison [04:29]
6. Honey in the Rock [05:42]
7. No. 32 [02:56]
8. Lullaby for the Beleaguered [06:19]
Hampton has released two self-produced CD-Rs, Book One (2006) and Book Two (2007), containing a mix of original and traditional songs. In 2008 she released My Mother's Children, her first commercially available album, on Navigator Records. The album has been described as "a sparse collection of her own songs, which recline with shimmering sensuality in various shady cloaks of weirdness" and as "songs of unnerving delicacy, elemental and acoustic simplicity...potent and enchanting".

It’s somewhat tempting fate, you might think, to name your record Folly, but it’s been the subject of philosophical enquiry for centuries. In Praise Of Folly, by renaissance scholar Desiderius Erasmus (1466- 1536), known as Prince Of The Humanists, is still in print.
Mary Hampton is clearly a humanist too: her work characterised by an oblique approach to words and music. A great deal of thought and passion is clearly given to writing and making her songs, her performances usually described with words such as “bizarre”, “haunting” and “fragile”. Very, very human.
And yet… despite the care and attention, despite being strangely attractive individually, the eight songs together become too much to take. At the same time, they summon up memories of other songs, other musicians, other eras: Didn’t we hear this one in the 60s? Wasn’t this done by thingamyjig?
Not necessarily bad in itself but, by the time one has worked from The Man Behind The Rhododendron through to Lullaby For The Beleagured it’s enough and more than enough. Sure, we might go back to Benjamin Bowmaneer or Hampton’s distinctive take on Honey In The Rock, but singly, not en masse. Too much fragile whimsy becomes oppressive.
Taken from: http://www.recordcollectormag.com/reviews/review-detail/7536

Musician’s trademark papery folk is unexpectedly pepped up with an imperial brass band and tiny steam-fair pipes
On the opening track, “The Man Behind The Rhododendron”, Mary Hampton’s trademark papery folk is unexpectedly pepped up with an imperial brass band and tiny steam-fair pipes, for a meditation on the seductions and absurdities of Empire. After that, it’s back to medieval times for “Benjamin Bowmaneer”, interspersed with bluethroats and goldcrests. The rest is idiosyncratic and intriguing as ever.  By David Honigmann (FT.COM - http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/3dc1dddc-e31c-11e0-bb55-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1cxMwjnW5)

Mary Hampton
Mary has brought together a live band of string and horn players known as the Mary Hampton Cotillion, featuring Alice Eldridge on cello (ViV, Collectress), Seth Bennett on double bass (7 Hertz, Orchestre Tout Puissant de Marcel Duchamp, IDST), Jo Burke on vocals and fiddle (Laish, Collectress, London Bulgarian Choir), and Alistair Strachan on horns and percussion (Sons of Noel and Adrian, ViV, Hamilton Yarns, Crayola Lectern).

Then Mary Hampton joins me, along with her four-string tenor guitar, and plays, for me only, some songs that make me realise that I have hairs on the back of my neck. She sings about birds. She sings about love. She uses imagery involving honey and bees. Her voice mesmerizes and envelopes me and I cannot move. I do not want to move. Her songs are beautifully uncomplicated. I can hear pretty birds singing in the sky. Then they stop. Mary climbs out of my boat and I suddenly realise, thanks to the overwhelming applause, that I’m actually in The Tunnels. Oh well. It was good while it lasted.

3 last photos credit: Mary Hampton album "Folly" launch in West Hill Hall
License All rights reserved by Melita Dennett


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