Broken Folk (label)
31 October 2019 (released)
30 October 2019
This is a terrific folk album. Lunatraktors are a thoroughly unconventional folk outfit but there is no question that these are folk songs and their rawness and sparseness adds to the meaning of the songs.
There are no instruments other than various forms of percussion and only two voices – Carli Jefferson and Clair Le Couteur – although they have many voices each.
All of the tracks on the album are traditional folk but I was staggered by how different they manage to make the songs sound.
The album was recorded in a the arches under Ramsgate’s Royal Parade to use the natural acoustic and reverb and the location adds a deep sense of location to the whole album.
From the outset with ‘The Raven’ (a traditional Cossack song) Le Couteur’s dark vocals resonate and echo with only a military drumbeat and Le Couteur’s chest being thumped to produce a vibrato as rhythm. It is wonderfully emotional and eerie, a wonderful way to start the album off.
Jefferson’s background is as a percussionist, tap dancer and performance artist including a worldwide tour with STOMP! And she shows all those talents in the percussion that backs up the singing of Clair Le Couteur. It is quite remarkable just how much the percussive elements of the music provide a complete backdrop to the lyrics and vocals. I found my ears becoming attuned to the percussion in the same way that I would listen for different instruments and there is no sense here that the music suffers from loss of ‘traditional’ instruments.
Through much of the album the songs are earnest and emotional but the pair liven the atmosphere on many different numbers, especially ‘Maggie May’ and my personal favourite ‘The Catalpa’ but whether the song is dark or lighter, the performance is of the same high standard.
They have described this as ‘Broke Folk’ and ‘Post-apocalyptic Folk’ but to me this is just great folk music with a different slant.