Elfin Bow Debut Album
Elfin Bow's debut album was officially released online on March 10th and then there were two spectacular launch concerts at the stunning Epstein Theatre, Liverpool, and Theatr Clwyd, Mold. A Live DVD has been produced and is on sale here. Fabulous reviews have been coming in for both the album and the launch concerts. Scroll down for more...
It would be easy to have certain preconceptions before listening to the first album from Elizabeth Ann Jones, performing as Elfin Bow. From the cover design, the font style, the song titles, to the list of instruments involved (mandolin, fiddle, banjo, "nature vocalsations"), it all screams out traditional folk. I have to confess I popped the CD into the player believing I knew exactly how the twelve songs would play out. I was wrong.
Despite kicking off with perhaps the song sounding closest to traditional folk, The First Red Leaf Of Autumn, overall the album is a somewhat subversive experience. She is described as a 21st century folk artist, a storyteller with one foot rooted in tradition, and the other venturing into the future. It's as apt a description as any. While this has all the ingredients of folk, the music has just as much in common with the likes of Kate Bush or Tori Amos, with an ethereal sound that still packs a punch.
Her stall is set out early in songs such as Daffadilly Down, which has a traditional title, but the song transcends simple genre tags. The middle section of the album is probably the strongest, featuring two tracks about the Witch of Melling, Grimshaw and the Fingerclaw and Edith's Song, and The Wisdom, the single released last summer. They feature strong storytelling and beautiful vocals, and it is no wonder that The Wisdom, a song about finding your own voice (which Jones has certainly done here), was picked for the first single.
Overall the album treads the line between joy and sorrow very well, giving this a bittersweet feel at times. There is an undercurrent of anger that threads through the record, coming up to the surface rarely but still lending an emotional heft even when it is hidden deeper in the song.
The album ends with the upbeat Prairie Madness which perfectly appropriates the old children's nursery rhyme, Clap Hands Till Daddy Comes. It's such a delightful song that burrows its way into your brain and refuses to let go, and will leave you either humming, whistling or singing it to yourself, often at inappropriate moments.
Elfin Bow is a rising star of the modern folk scene, and it is easy to see why. This is a beautiful album, with bewitching vocals and stunning musical accompaniment (with no fewer than nine musical talents supporting her, including Siberian musician Saydyko Fedorova who provides the nature vocalisations). She is clearly going to be one to watch in 2017.
Self-titled release from Elfin Bow - a countrified idyll with ominous essence
(February 03, 2017)
The press release states: ‘... pastoral psych-folk’ and ‘... 21st century folk’, I tend to agree with the former but I remain uncertain what the latter is supposed to mean. If intended to imply a contemporary edge then maybe, but there’s a host of ancient elements and themes at work. There’s definitely a bucolic, somewhat rustic flavour to the self-titled release from Elfin Bow (aka Elizabeth Ann Jones) however that’s not to say that it is by any means parochial. The carefully constructed folk presence brings into play otherworldly narrative, melancholy reminiscences, dark tales and revealed hope - the 21st century reference, I guess pulls in slight touches of folk pop however the overall feel is of a countrified idyll with ominous essence.
Looking for the folk elements you’ll find ‘The First Red Leaf Of Autumn’, a rockier folk pulse comes through ‘Sweet Jonathan’ whereas ‘Daffadilly Down’ hones the psych folk edge, as does ‘Bull of The Freeway’, while the darker folk sound comes through ‘Grimshaw and the Fingerclaw’ and ‘Edith's Song’ and the chant-like ‘Holler in the Hollows’. The fragile feel to the vocals and the music is partly illusion because there’s real strength and depth here, both vocally and instrumentally. This is an album that benefits from repeated replay because the closer you get the more it delivers.
Elfin Bow is doubtless one of those proponents of folk that has a long way to go and this album is as good a signpost as you could expect.
Review: Charlie Elland
Elizabeth Anne Jones resides in North wales and makes pastoral, psych and traditional folk under the stage name Elfin Bow. Her debut album contains stately ballads and nursery rhyme folk darkness, with a backing of deftly picked acoustic guitars, mandolin, banjo, violin and a hint of electronica.
Lyrically astute, melodically inventive and in possession of pure singing tones, Ms Bow has made a deceptively gentle record. Scratch beneath the surface, however, and you'll find weighty themes. 'Hey Auld Friend' is as dark a song as they come; a kiss goodbye to this mortal coil via drowning. Similarly,'Holler in the Hollows' deals with mourning and hardship.
Elsewhere 'Grimshaw and the Fingerclaw' and 'Edith's Song' form a short song suite with a wyrd old Albion vibe. Lightness comes via 'The Wisdom' with it's sense of wonder about the world, and the bluegrass-tinged 'Prairie Madness.'
An album full of intimate, homespun charm and mystery."
LIVERPOOL SOUND AND VISION:
Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10
There is a certain majesty in the way that Elfin Bow presents her self-titled new album, not one of false regal misfortune but instead the type that is more natural, more ethereal, the type in which Tatiana would look upon her fellow fairies with pride or Juno, the wife of Jupiter would tease and rack the conscious of Tiresias whilst being the mother of all strong women in the Roman Empire; it is the majesty of innocence, of sublime spirit and protection and one that Elfin Bow, the superb Elizabeth Jones, wears well.
The sense of playfulness wrapped up in sorrow but with an edge of controlled fury is evident throughout the album, it is carefully weaved like a quilt, its many patchwork flourishes are to be marvelled over and applauded, the sense of rhythm is at its highest quality as each song is more attuned to a fable narrative, the tale and its moral, its significance in the scheme of the web that joins everything together.
Whether this is a deliberate sensation placed down by Elfin Bow and her players, Oscar South, Daniel J. Logan, Victoria Wasley, Muirreann McDermot, Allan Crooks, Tom Kitching, Jamie Francis, Charles Sweeney, Saydyho Fedorova and Elfin’s fellow producer, the excellent Gary Edward Jones, it doesn’t in the scheme of things matter, sometimes the story is so natural that what could be seen as honourable fortune is actually a flowing piece of narrative, perhaps a speculative, unconscious marvel.
Elfin Bow is to be congratulated for this album, the most natural of all steps undertaken for an artist, she plays each story out in a similar vein to all the great tale writers, from Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories to Hans Christian Andersen, there is something so delicate but strong in these songs that they defy even the wickedest wind.
In tracks such as Sweet Jonathan, Grimshaw and the Fingerclaw, Edith’s Song, Hey and The Friend and Holler In The Hollows, Elfin Bow has produced a great set of tracks that are highly valued, much loved and capable of pulling the listener into the realm of storytelling and magic music with ease. A truly wonderful album.
Ian D. Hall
So tonight finds me in the Epstein Theatre for a very strange evening with Elfin Bow.
Elfin is here to launch her new album called, funnily enough, Elfin Bow.
It was put together by a crowdfunding campaign and produced at Hound Dog Studios, based in Liverpool.
It was released in early March and tonight Elfin, not one to do things by halves, plays the Epstein to promote it.
The show starts with a storyteller who tells a traditional welsh folktale called “The leaves that hung but never grew”. The story is told by Alice Fernbank who, for the purposes of the story, is disguised as Edith Grimshaw (are you with me so far?) but the storytelling is great and Alice or Edith, take your pick, keeps the audience enthralled throughout, and so, as you can gather so far, this is not just an ordinary gig.
Next up is a harp and guitar duo Bryony and Johnny. At this point we have huge clocks and snowflakes dangling from the ceiling, with dry ice cutting through the lights, which project onto the stage, giving a visual fix to the ethereal happenings in the performance.
Bryony and Johnny perform of psych folk-like tunes and sea shanties, Captain Kidd being a really good number. The harp playing is amazing, and Bryony’s ethereal vocals float through the Epstein (trippy man). The sound is great too, well mixed and not too loud (ok, it’s official, the Epstein theatre is great).
Act 2 sees Elfin take a Bow or Bow (ha, couldn’t resist that).
So here we are as Elfin takes centre stage, and is dressed like a psychedelic pixie in very colorful garb, making the old sixties Batman series look positively drab as she kicks the set off with a folky ambient number.
She is backed by two vocalists, one of whom is her sister. The vocals are great, especially, when they sing together, and you can hear the beautiful harmonies blend.
When the band play they tend to get a bit drowned out but still that’s not to take away from the gorgeous sound made by them. it certainly seems like there are complex arrangements at play here in the world of Elfin. It’s like an aural landscape, and listening to it in one sitting, so to speak, is a bit much to take in. I imagine if I was listening to it at home it would be like folk quadraphonic as the various different sounds emerge through the speakers.
The band backing her are all quite proficient and, continually like Elfin, swop instruments. Tom Kitching, the fiddle player, only plays the xylophone once and stays in fiddle duties for most of the set. Tom, it must be said, adds a lot to the sound, giving extra texture to the guitar finger picking of Elfin.
Elfin seeks to blur the boundaries between various art forms, as we see tonight, with storytellers and alt folk group, combined with stage sets and artistic lighting effects. She also paints, as well as composing music, and collaborates with video artists.
Elfin is very influenced by the artist Allan Kaprow and the happening movement in the sixties They too sought to blur the lines between different art forms, so then perhaps we could describe tonight as a mini happening.
She plays all of the new album and finishes with an encore. By this time the audience are on their feet, applauding wildly, and she deserves to take a bow (there we go again), as Elfin has taken the folk genre and spun it into the 21st century, methinks.
LIVERPOOL SOUND AND VISION:
Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10
Elfin Bow cuts a figure of radiant cool as she stands upon the stage at the Epstein Theatre, bathed not only in the glow of spotlights that change with the mood of the song, not only caught in the appreciation of an audience who have travelled the distance with her, but one who with a sense of serenity captures the mood of an album launch to its very finest interpretation, a show, a feast for the crowd, ones who are sated and comfortable, enriched by the experience of what has come before them, an offering by an artist.
It has been a joyous journey to undertake, one that has spanned a variety of gigs, a different hat for the musical occasion, whether solo in spirit or in a gathering, Elizabeth Jones has captured the imagination, she has taken on an established feel and turned it around to face the crowd with absolute creative majesty, a conductor of Folk but one that has come to also embody the spirit of Progressive, the art of telling a story within the confines and structures that surround a song.
The Epstein Theatre has played host with absolute gravitas on many occasions since it re-opened, yet there was a sensation in the air that was held differently on Elfin Bow’s launch night; they tangible taste lingering beyond the red curtain that would frame the ideal of a story teller’s night, one that went beyond showcasing the self-titled album, one that was true to its own conscious and drive.
Aside from performing songs from the new album, including the superb Sweet Jonathan, The Sleep of Reason, Edith’s Song and Grimshaw and the Fingerclaw, Elfin Bow produced a stunner by having story-teller Alice Fernbank narrate the tale of Edith Grimshaw and the inclusion of Bryony Elizabeth and Jonny Darnell as first half guests, made the evening not just an exercise in performing art but instead being able to live in the artist’s mind, to be at one with Elfin’s character and creation.
In a night where music became a piece of theatre, of stunning representation of the medium of music, Elfin Bow and her guests and fellow musicians were placed on the highest of plateaus and applauded for their presentation; a fantastic evening of the most wonderful quality.
Ian D. Hall
" A most amazing, eclectic, creative, magical, fairytale, theatrical and musical evening last night at the Epstein Theatre, Liverpool, with the hugely talented and mesmerising Elfin Bow. The standing ovation was very much deserved." Leonie Hallam
"What a fabulous night of music at the Liverpool Epstein Theatre. A fantastic show to launch a fantastic album. A polished performance by a cracking group of musicians and backing singers, giving their all to compliment the sweet voice of Elfin Bow as she brought her songs to life before our eyes and ears. It was the sound of life, love and a warm hug, wrapped up in a kaleidoscope of colour." Chris Birchall
"Truly an enchanted evening, thank you!" Clare Barton
"You shone so brightly for us. Thank you." Gill Hyslop
"What a fantastic and glorious evening. Thank you so much, Elizabeth and crew, for such a special event." Bettina Carpi
"Feel quite lucky to have been part of this last night." Jo Gibson
"I'm feeling slightly in awe from your incredible performance on Saturday. You commanded the stage with something very spiritual, maybe the Spring Equinox cast a spell! but it was very tangible. You gave us all not only outstanding music but also the thought that "anything is possible" Your drive, determination and grit got you a standing ovation for more than just the music. You deserve every plaudit coming your way. " Sheila B
Here are a few behind the scenes pics of the recording process. Click on the pictures to enlarge.