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Battle and Victory

Nancy Elizabeth

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Album Review

After releasing a few singles under her somewhat non-euphonious full name of Nancy Elizabeth Cunliffe, this young singer/songwriter from the village of Wigan in the north of England makes her full-length debut under her Christian name only. Nancy Elizabeth will gain immediate and widespread comparison to Joanna Newsom, because alongside her many other instruments (acoustic guitar, harmonium, dulcimer, etc.), she plays a small Celtic harp on much of Battle and Victory. However, Cunliffe is a much less affected vocalist and far more down to earth in terms of her music and lyrics. A more appropriate comparison among her contemporaries would be Sharron Kraus, but at heart, Cunliffe belongs alongside the likes of Vashti Bunyan and Sandy Denny: traditional British folk music is at the heart of these songs, but she's never hidebound by tradition. "Coriander" features the Balkan-inspired avant-rock of her labelmates A Hawk and a Hacksaw percolating behind her lovely vocal, with accordion and horns powering the whole. Elsewhere, "Hey Son" features a piercing, Joni Mitchell-like lead vocal, and dreamy overdubbed harmonies over an oddly tuned, hypnotic acoustic guitar riff that explodes into dramatic Fairport Convention-style full band folk-rock. Endlessly inventive but based on a solid melodic and lyrical core, these songs are almost too rich to absorb in a single sitting. Battle and Victory is a deeply satisfying debut that vaults over the currently hip "weird folk" scene into something more lasting.

Battle and Victory, Nancy Elizabeth
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