The mere mention of an album entitled Winter Fires would rightly have anybody reaching for their woollen jumper. But fear not, as Gren Bartley’s new album is to be enjoyed come snow, sun or rain.
It is the second of Gren’s albums out of the five he intends to release over a five year period. Gren’s passion for music means that he is always writing new songs and as such, composed the title track for the Bright Young Folk December Sessions in 2012. However, what started out as a stand-alone creation turned into the title track for his new album.
It is indeed the unquestionably exquisite song-writing which stands out throughout the album. Each is an honest and often painful exploration of love and loss, occasionally contrasted with positive reflections of seasonal delights and skies "pearled in a deep blue." A true wordsmith, Gren treats us to dazzling imagery such as in Wayward Stars where ’smoke is shyly climbing’ and every word appears hand-picked with care.
Expressive and charismatic, Gren’s voice reflects the emotions within each song. His performances on guitar, vocals, banjo, slide, harmonica and eBow are enhanced by those of Julia Disney (vocals, piano, violin) Dan Wilkins (percussion, kora) Richard Adams (drums, percussion) Robert Hallard (vocals) and Linda Adams (vocals). The result adds texture to the tracks and yet the subtle elegance of Gren’s musical skill remains at the forefront of the album.
Winter Fires blends English Folk and American Blues, the balance of the two taking us on a journey across the Atlantic, and yet putting us at ease with familiar traditional English influences. The album is gently paced with the occasional lively number such as the fantastic Brick which keeps the flow of the album interesting and fresh.
Gren proves to be an accomplished musician and handles with great care the often delicate process of introducing a song to an instrumental accompaniment. The delightfully simple banjo riffs and patterns in I am Home complement the nature of the song and facilitate the transition from a gentle song to a spritely tune.
Each arrangement captivates the listener and carries with it a certain fragility and charm that continues until the very end of the last track. The combination of intelligent lyrics and musical talent is undeniably powerful and we are instantly enthralled. The inclusion of the traditional Kelefaba celebrates Gren’s ability to produce original and thoughtful arrangements with ease.
A spine-tinglingly beautiful album which soothes the mind and satisfies the desire for compelling stories and musical gems. Winter Fires invokes interest, attention and admiration...and deservedly so.Rebekah Foard
Released on Fellside Records on 28th February 2013
1. I Am Home
2. Porcelain Hand
4. Winter Fires
6. Wayward Stars/Kelefaba
7. Waters Run Dry
8. Between The Lines
9. Washed In Grey
10. The Sun Is On The Yardarm