Kerry Smith : Folk EP5 April 2020
Bristol-born Kerrry Smith has sung all her life, but perhaps never with the heartfelt, raw energy she has channelled for this short EP, which is as unadorned as its title is simple. The music she has made fits its time, sung as if a deep-felt reaction to contemporary chaos.
Kerry is joint lead vocalist and percussionist in Young Waters, one of England’s most exhilarating new folk ensembles. The band's eponymous debut album, released in 2018, had a rare, elemental beauty, which came directly from crafted spatial relationships between the instruments and vocals.
Switching tack, Smith sings unaccompanied here, but her Young Waters cohort Theo Passingham was still on hand to produce all five tracks. The result of their studio time is a stripped back, emotionally potent set of traditional songs.
The EP starts, as it goes on; Sailor Boy is a lamenting tale at best - sung here with all its tragedy expressed, heart-rending as Smith reaches the last line, "Place some marble at my head and my feet, that the world may know that I died of grief".
The emotional fluency of Smith's vocals then equally illuminates The Wounded Hussar and Mountain Streams (alternatively know as The Mountain Streams Where the Moorcocks Crow or Wi' My Dog and Gun).
Let No Man Steal Your Thyme is a very well covered Irish/British Ballad, perhaps given its definitive reading by Anne Briggs in the early 60s. Like Briggs, with a captivating intensity, Kerry finds the soulful essence of the music.
The last track is The Flower of Sweet Strabane, a song with the sadness of parting in it, and it is captured sweetly.
This is a remarkable EP, stilling your thoughts and for long moments taking your breath too. Kerry Smith has a profound way with a folk song - it is not clear where she learnt these five pieces, but she sings them as if from her bones.