All in the Merry Month of May
Reverb Worship, 2009
All in the Merry Month of May is a one-woman (with a few guests) folk outfit; with the debut release At Home we are offered a warm, quirky, DIY folk gem.
The one woman is Joelle Premo, whose multi-instrumentality alone is impressive. On this release she has drawn together a range of traditional folk songs with the purpose of “communing with our ancestors; a thread to grasp that leads into the past and, hopefully, into the future, too.” The pieces are drawn from a wide array of sources, and the album comes with a beautifully presented zine-let that explains the stories behind each of the songs.
The music is generally low key and soothing to the ears. Premo’s voice harmonises beautifully with itself and she weaves lovely tapestries of sound with banjo, dulcimer, autoharp, accordion, and percussion. One has the feeling of a musician genuinely versed in the tradition, yet a performer able to bring her own unique touch to each arrangement and each tune.
The album has a very lo-fi production, raw and intimate in its simplicity. There’s no reflexivity here: the organic spirit of musical tradition is allowed to flow clear through each tune. On some tracks this works against the final experience somewhat I feel; but on the whole the almost primitive production values feel very natural. Witness the moment in “Edward” when the percussion and accordion first enter, for example.
It’s the melodies and the allusive lyrics that carry the day however, and Premo channels rich life into both. “Entsong” gives Tolkien’s words an Americian folk twang that, strangely to these Australian ears, feels utterly natural. “High Barbaree” succeeds in conjuring a lost, wild age of piracy, privateering, and oceanic derring-do. The adventurous world implied in the impish spark of “Raggle Taggle Gypsies, O!” suffuses with romantic whimsy. The songs are have a subliminal power; they seep slowly under one’s skin, and truly stay with the listener.
This CD is a grower; its subtlety and understated sweetness take time to imbibe and appreciate, something I really like in an album. I was lucky enough to receive copy 6 in a limited run of 50, so you might struggle to get your hands on a copy, though it is more than worth your time to do so…