by Larry Day, 10 May 2013
Welsh croonette Georgia Ruth has blazed a trail with her harp-focused indie-folk, giving us a glimpse into her rose-tinted world via one of the biggest string instruments. It’s never been an tool widely utilised, and even in her genre of choice it’s rare – though Florence + The Machine did bring it glory with Lungs – but here Ruth shows us how flexible and vital an instrument it can be. Brought up learning both English and her native Welsh, she’s garnered fame by experimenting with both, giving exposure to the dying language on a more national level. On Week Of Pines, her full-length debut, we see her make use of these two USPs, offering us something vastly different in an overflowing folk industry.
‘Etrai’ is one example of her bilingual songwriting. She opts for a more straight-laced folk tone, something actually unusual on Week Of Pines. It harks back to the faded haze of, as her Facebook bio eloquently puts it, ‘melancholy folk sirens of the late 60s’. ‘Codi Angor’ is a mistier cut, with accordions (or organs… or maybe a bagpipe…) providing an almost sacred timbre. It’s a careful, cautious track – it would be easy to see it soundtrack a ‘Visit Wales’ advert, with images of the rolling tide battering rocky shores and dew-lined valleys cropping up.
The title track on the LP is forced along by a locomotive motorik – it’s definitely not your usual approach to folk, with ethereal harp sparseness delicately resting on proto-punk drum beats. Ruth’s golden voice floats effortlessly above the canoodling rhythms, somewhat disjointed, but still connecting through delicate timbre; it’s akin to the layers of clouds in our atmosphere: the lowly rain-sodden sky-sheep represent drums and on the other end of the spectrum, Ruth’s pipes soar into the stratosphere. It’s an analogy true for much of the record. Her take on folk is far more original than many: there are a lot of droning undercurrents, flighty and desolate harp arrangements with luxurious vocal melodies carrying the tracks. It verges upon ambient.
‘Dovecote’ again features a prominent drone and traditional folk twangs in her rollercoaster voice, but unlike other cuts, there’s a slightly dissonant layer that creeps in midway through, injecting a sense of unease and danger into the mix at its denouement. ‘Old Blue’, with a cowboy-fiddle (or harmonica? Her instruments can sound ambiguous…) intro, is a moment on the album where the British-ness of it all seemingly halts. The waltzing harp and delicate percussion, whilst still Celtic, evoke a feeling of Midwest cornfields and touches of contemporary Americana.
Georgia Ruth has excelled at sculpting a fresh take on folk. Week Of Pines isn’t exactly a release gushing with bravado, often it’s understated or subtle, and perhaps the natural humbleness of the genre will be of detriment to gathering a wider audience; if you do happen to get to grips with the album, it will be a pleasure. Ruth wields two languages and an affinity for an out-of-the-ordinary instrument, and using these within her sounds has enabled her to nestle in a niche within the broadness of folk and occupy a space all her own. You won’t find an artist quite like her.
Courtesy of The 405.