Olivia Chaney ‘Olivia Chaney’ EP 4/5

The British folk scene is exceptionally vibrant at present and here is one of the reasons why. Singer-songwriter and guitarist Olivia Chaney belongs very much to the old school tradition of English folk which is no bad thing at all and sounds as though the work of Shirley Collins has been influential on her. Whatever the case, this is a delightful set of five songs which serves as a fine introduction to Chaney’s voice and songwriting talents and we look forward to hearing a whole album of material. This EP works extremely well because of the sparse accompaniment with just cello/violin to embellish the basic instrumentation of either guitar, piano and occasional harmonium. As a result the music has a genuine and lasting intimacy to it. All bar one song are originals with ‘The King’s horses’ a lovely, reflective song with the most delicate of melodies. On ‘Imperfections’ there are shades of early Joni Mitchell while for some welcome variation ‘Swimming in the longest river’ reverts part-way through to assorted vocals a capella and then returns to piano. A real bonus is the inclusion of a French song ‘Ballade’, originally written by poet François Villon, and which the great Georges Brassens (the most influential of post WWII singers in France and a seminal influence on the early Serge Gainsbourg) adapted. At some stage someone really ought to devote an entire album to recording Brassens’ extensive repertoire in this country and Olivia Chaney may well just be the ideal person. In France Maxime Le Forestier has done precisely that with two superb CD box sets and a fine late 1990s album which followed on from an earlier live recording. All in all an ideal way to become more conversant with the music of one of folk music’s newest and most interesting talents.

Tim Stenhouse