What does it sound like?:
Young Waters is a five-piece band led by Theo Passingham (vocals and acoustic guitar) with Kerry Ann Jangle (vocals), Liam O’Connell (double bass), Calum Smith (violin) and Rowen Elliot (viola and violin). They are named after a traditional folk song describing the unpleasant fate of a cherubic young innocent. Their FaceBook page refers to neo-folk and post-emo-hardcore-hip-folk-hop, whatever they may be, but don’t let that put you off because, in truth, they are quite traditional, harking back to the days when there was little electricity in the West Country and no NHS, when travelling musicians entertained locals round a roaring fire, weaving their cautionary tales of back-breaking work, dysfunctional relationships and everyday premature death. They certainly look the part with their fresh faces and wearing what on first glance appear to be torn rags.
There are eight tracks, six written by Theo and two covers. However, all band members collaborate in the arrangements. The songs are elaborate, expressing some profound thoughts and casting bewitching spells. The lyrics are often in the first person or speaking directly to a third, conversational in style, looking at the world with wonder and uncertainty, making tentative, nervous steps into adulthood and relationships, coming to terms with the ephemeral nature of life. Two covers, one old, Polly Vaughan another tragedy ballad, sung a cappella, and one relatively recent, Jesca Hoop’s Enemy, featuring creamy harmonies and a dynamic fiddle, both slot in seamlessly.
Young Waters’ musicianship is excellent, the key interaction being that between Theo’s gentle picking and Liam’s subtle plucking. The opening passage to track one, Dust, a song about a rotting corpse, in which they support a lyrical violin, is a perfect example of their many magic moments, captivating and beautiful. Kerry Ann is credited with percussion but she plays very little. Effectively, there is no rhythm section, the lead instruments often taking responsibility for the pace of the performances, resulting in nimble changes within each song. Still, they manage to maintain their discipline. Typically, the fiddles expand the melodies through intricate twists and turns, cranking up the tension, adding kindling to an already burning passion, whilst remaining sensitive to when the music demands quiet.
The vocals are equally effective, Theo and Kerry Ann sparking off rapturous harmonies, alternating for the dominant voice or sharing equally. Theo’s experience singing in a choir tells in the arrangements, clipping consonants and celebrating the joy in repetition. At times, they are as light as a fresh breeze through the hedgerows and, at others, they are as intense as a married couple seething over decades of slights. They bicker, they coo, they soar, they come crashing back to earth, they are confident and controlled. They sound like two ancient souls, utterly entwined, providing each other loving, empathetic support throughout the whole of life’s grim journey. The closer you listen to their singing, the more you will be moved by it.
Mary Gauthier, a fan and supporter of Young Waters, once said that there is a lot of good music about but that’s not enough, music needs to be great. Young Waters debut is more than that, it’s an album oozing with class.
What does it all *mean*?
Folk Music’s younger generation is more than capable of keeping the flame alight. Theo Passingham is some talent.
Goes well with…
Drinking fine beer after an honest day’s work and pondering the meaning of life.
Might suit people who like…
Olivia Chaney’s Shelter and You Are Wolf’s Keld.