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Hem | Rabbit Songs (Setanta)
You feel there should be an A in front of their name, a gentle alert to their approach so you can hush in readiness and be full prepared for the susurration of Sally Ellyson's voice as Lord, Blow The Moon Out Please welcomes you to a beautiful forty five minutes. Even when the rest of the band join in the sound is still pure gossamer. This is one of those records that just steals your breath away, like the moment you first heard 'The Trinity Sessions' and wondered how the sound didn't just crumble as soon as it left the speakers. Like Margo Timmins, Sally sings a man's words, those of bandmate Dan Messe and this adds weight to songs such as When I Was Drinking as she sighs that "now I am sober, now I'm alone, three years have gone by since you have gone." It's too sad for a girl to sing things like that, especially with her voice. Actually I don't think anyone should be so cruelly tragic and it's not just the words either, instrumentals like The Burning Song would bring a tear to all but the most hardened eye. Even when a host of extras join our intrepid quartet the sound is never busy. Listen to Sailor and try and work out where all the strings and horns are. There's too many agonisingly beautiful moments in this record to be legal, let alone try and describe. I mean, there's the gentle clarinet solo in Halfacre, or the way Sally's voice rises in that same song. The way the oboe adds a tinge of sadness to Leave Me Here despite the claim that "tonight he brought me to heaven." Is that a Midnight Rider bass line in Betting On Trains? Who cares, it's marvellous. Then there's the bliss of Idle (The Rabbit Song) which lilts along to a gentle march while above there's a "broken moon in the sky, enough to pull up our eyes from the ground" and has "restless stars through the trees, enough to fall to our knees." And, oh, oh the lushness of Stupid Mouth Shut and its tale of unrequited love with the girl vowing "someday when my heart exhales I'll tell you everything, these sweet words spilling all about us," but the title tells the true story and the yearning is crushing. Waltz, with its Bridge Over Troubled Water piano, will make you sigh rather than dance, leaving it to Horsey to bid you farewell as a "blue sky and yellow sun paint the streets and avenues" until a mandolin and piano tinkle away into the distance. It's hard to believe this is a debut, especially for this year. It has a timeless, yet old, feel. Maybe being recorded at a place called Stratosphere Sound gives it such an airy, ethereal texture that swirls around Sally's voice. Whatever, enough talk, just buy it.

Laurence Arnold
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002