17 May 2022

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Jacquie Walters - Album Review: The Forest

31 Oct 2021 // A review by Kev Rowland

Jacquie Walters has been active in the folk scene for more than 30 years, firstly as part of the group Pounamu before turning solo, and now performs regularly with bassist/guitarist James Wilkinson. James appears on the final track of this album, and harp player Maria Oxnam also makes an appearance - both James and Maria played on Jacquie’s first album all the way back in 1993. The folk scene in New Zealand is fascinating in that it is often a melting pot of different styles, and actually covers a much broader base than it does in the UK for example, so when I see that an album or artist is described as being folk, I am always intrigued to hear exactly what they mean. Here we have an album that I would indeed describe as modern folk, particularly of the English persuasion, combined with Sixties-style singer-songwriter, and very pleasant it is too. Apparently, Wilkinson was also responsible for the production, and the result is an album that is incredibly clear and sonically well-balanced, so much so that one thinks they are in the room with the performers. Jacquie has a wonderfully clear voice, and tends to sing more alto than soprano, with picked guitar providing delicate accompaniment (no percussion).

The album opens with Whakatu, which sadly is the only track to feature Maria, as the gentle touch of the harp does provide some additional depth and I would have liked to have heard more of her on the album. Whakatu is the traditional name for Nelson, and much of this song is performed in Te Reo, and it is a gentle introduction, atmospheric and somehow not quite as direct as the rest of the album. From here on in much of the rest of the album follows a pattern of vocals and picked acoustic guitar, and even though I played this multiple times I found that many of the songs appeared to blur into each other. When there is a change, such as on the title track, which also has some wonderful fretless bass, it stands out even though yet again the song has a base of picked guitar on vocals. The highlight is probably the closing number, Kiss Me In The Morning, which brings in some country and American style, with a riffed acoustic as opposed to picked, the bass is back, we have additional harmony vocals, and Jacquie allows herself some freedom and it genuinely sounds like she is having fun.

Strangely, I found that if I played just one song out of the 12, then went away and came back later to another, I enjoyed the album far more. Individually each song sounds incredibly special, with Jacquie’s vocals perfectly accompanied by the instrumentation. I am sure it will be different when this album is played live, and everyone becomes lost in the moment, but even though I really wanted to enjoy this, I felt that much of it washed over me.

Rating: ( 3 / 5 )

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