Beyond The Pale
(2019 - Fydle Records - AUS)
Bush Gothic have a most unique style that blends traditional folk with swarming arrangements, containing elements of classical, period theater, avant-garde, eclectic rock, world, and almost anything else one can imagine. The songs are sophisticated in both composition and execution, heavy on the storytelling, and easy on the ears.
Presentations are lush and mostly spacious with a good deal played at a medium pace, sometimes containing surprise injections. The bulk of the material is sung by multi-instrumentalist/composer/lead vocalist Jenny M. Thomas, who has a gentle delivery and dreamy voice. She also performs on violin, viola, banjo mandolin, piano, and traditional banjo. Dan Witton sings lead on 'The Ballad of 1891', which his grandmother wrote back in 1950. He plays double bass, the piano on 'Streets of Forbes' and backing vocals. Chris Lewis plays drum kit and percussion, and piano on 'Past Carin’,and sang backing vocals. Enrichment of the music comes from The Lonely String Quartet: Jason Bunn, viola, Luke Severn, cello, Sarah Curro, violin, Zoe Black, violin. All songs arranged by Bush Gothic.
This is their 3rd album, and most developed, although this same rustic foundation with atmosphere and dramatic touches has been their trademark throughout. Originally the group was called 'Jenny M. Thomas & The System' (on their debut 'Bush Gothic'), then they became Bush Gothic as a band. The title 'Beyond The Pale' comes from a time during the 14th century, when a fence made of stakes marked the part of Ireland that was under English rule. Known as ‘The English Pale’, when one dared travel beyond the 'pale' it was to leave behind English law and what the English considered civilized society. Thus, the song topics range from tales of convicts, worker plights, and a wall full of imagines that the music and words carry brilliantly. The album is a somewhat sombre, elegant and extremely lovely recording, bleeding with sadness, sincerity, and honestly florid with the past.
At times the music has a sparse country flavor, yet reminds one of more of the slower ballads of The Blue Nile, with a gentle passion, and a sweet soul bearing state. No matter what plateau Bush Gothic move to, the pieces soak you in a breathlessness and beauty, that defies reality. From start to finish, the ornamental inventive gorgeous tunes will overtake you, make you warmhearted, and shake off whatever negative feelings your day might have brought on. EXTREMELY and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. A BEST OF 2019 without doubt. The physical CD is a beautiful gatefold with booklet inside that opens up into a collectors poster. Outstanding in every possible way.
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 4 - 13 - 2019