13 July 2018 (released)
02 May 2018
The umbrella of folk stretches over a wide range of music these days. There is a major resurgence of Americana-folk, taking bluegrass and spinning it for a new generation. Then there is the modern fusion of folk with electronics to create a bizarre hybrid that has permeated the indie world of late. However, it could be argued that the truest form of folk traces its roots back to the minstrel traditions of medieval Europe. Pure siren voices telling tales of brave deeds and great defeats over haunting chord changes.
It's not that the latest album from Colorado (by way of the Pacific Northwest) singer Aya Maguire is purely medieval folk but there is a definite vein of it that permeates her songs and infuses them with a certain Celtic flair. Whether it's the lone tambourine keeping time, the images of bearing flags on a westward march or simply the way in which she stacks her gorgeous harmonies, The Sandcastle King is full of nods to days of yore.
These traces are most apparent on the first two tracks the sparse 'Oh My Heart' and the regaling 'Two to Fold'. The opener showcases Maguire's remarkable vocal abilities. Over a hypnotic, cyclic guitar and earnest tambourine, she coos with a lilting cadence that climbs and sinks like a bird riding an updraft. Meanwhile, her lower register creates beautiful countermelodies that imbue the track with a mythical quality. 'Two to Fold' continues with a similar minor mood. Images of trekking trailblazers fill this song of perseverance and tough decisions. The Northwest influence makes its way in with sauntering drums and creamy overdriven electric guitar.
The album finds its way into more standard folk fare but regularly tips its cap back to those ancient roots. Her impressively agile vocals bring to mind folk legends like Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. A great album to put on and drift away in thought.