Rosemary Standley - Love I Obey - Gramophone

Look back over the classical releases of the past few years and you’ll see a trend emerging. Sitting somewhere at the junction of folk music, early music, bluegrass, jazz and even pop, it includes albums like Andreas Scholl’s ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ (Decca, 1/02), Apollo’s Fire’s ‘Come to the River’ (Avie), Anonymous 4’s wonderful ‘1865’ (Harmonia Mundi, 2/15), most of L’Arpeggiata and even Concerto Caledonia’s ‘Purcell’s Revenge’ (Delphian – see below). ‘Love I Obey’ is a new addition to the genre, a disc steeped in whiskey and woodsmoke, tragic deaths and even more tragic loves.

If you’re not into indie French-American bands then you might not have come across Rosemary Standley, lead vocalist of Moriarty, a country-blues-rock collective whose music recently took an acoustic turn. Her voice is the guiding thread through an album that sets 17th-century English ballads (Purcell, Lawes) alongside traditional American folksongs, and pairs a theorbo, viola da gamba and serpent with guitar and bugle. The results are bewitchingly lovely, and more organic than many similar genre-crossing experiments. That’s mostly down to Standley, whose delivery is disarmingly direct, cultivatedly naive. There’s an innocence at the top of this American-accented voice that blends down to a startling guttural depth at the bottom. She’s supported by the crack team of Bruno Helstroffer on theorbo and guitar (by turns elegant and folk-percussive), and keyboardist Elisabeth Geiger, with occasionally jazz-style breaks from Michel Godard on serpent and bugle.

Inevitably, not all tracks are created equal. The traditional American repertoire is the most natural fit, but the title-song by William Lawes and Henry VIII’s ‘Pastime with good company’ also come off well. Purcell’s Evening Hymn is unexpectedly frenetic but none the worse for that.

01 July 2015