Owl Service
"A Garland of Song"

(Southern Records 2008)Owl Service - A Garland of Song

What's old is suddenly new again as the cycle of trends never seems to end. While perhaps it might be the revival of a somewhat unlikely trend, a couple of years ago musician Steven Collins set out to bring back the English folk scene. With his band The Owl Service, Collins revives the scene that was already reborn once before in the '60s and '70s -- but he does take some artistic license. The Owl Service's "A Garland of Song" is both folk and traditional but also a reflection of everything from the past 40 years.

The solemnity of female voices evokes a medieval or renaissance hymn on "Child Ballad no. 49 (or The Rolling Of The Stones)" creating a trancelike vision that is broken only by an electric guitar solo. But it's the a cappella "Oxford City (Or The Jealous Lover)" that bridges the gap, stepping forward to a more traditional Irish/English folk sound that continues with the delicate "Turpin Hero." Less stoic, the jangling "A Garland Song (Folk Revival)" and the more casual country of "Apple Tree Man" loosen things up. Elsewhere on the album, The Owl Service go for somewhat curious instrumentals, sitar slowly mixes with a twinkling melody on "The Dorset Hanging Oak."

Less is always more, especially for The Owl Service. The band's "A Garland of Song" evokes far more with their plays of restraint as they focus on strong vocal melodies and subtle instrumental choices. The Owl Service brings out the beauty and spirit of something that might otherwise be considered old, giving it new life.

B+

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