For many people, one of the first images that comes to mind when hearing the words folk singer is a solitary performer toting an acoustic guitar. Patricia de Mayo offers a refreshing twist on this formula by using the guitar’s Arabic cousin, the oud, to accompany the mixture of self-penned and traditional material that makes up Artichokes & Cauliflowers, her debut album.
She puts the instrument’s mellow timbre to good use throughout the album, whether to create a deathly atmosphere on The Trees They Grow High, or to emulate the rippling waters of the Thames on the title track. Though it’s hard to pinpoint any one track as having a distinctly Middle Eastern flavour, there’s hints of it in the complex rhythms of Circles and Lines, or the terse repeated figures of Song for a Hero.
The sound of the oud is a good match for de Mayo’s earthy vocals, in particular where the latter are layered up to create the kind of gorgeous harmonies heard on My Friends Tell Me. Meanwhile on This Is Where I Run, multiple vocal lines weave in and out of each other to mesmerising effect.
In places de Mayo also displays a knack for storytelling, with Angela painting an intriguing portrait of a lost neighbour, in the process putting a human face on the UK’s housing crisis. Similarly, Mary Magdalene is a well crafted and genuinely touching story of man and machine that also raises questions around the ethics of artificial intelligence.
On first listen, Artichokes & Cauliflowers has what seems like a charming simplicity. However, de Mayo’s lyrics and carefully constructed arrangements give the album hidden depths - much like the streetwise cockney barrow girl in the title track.Nick Brook
Released in 2017 on CD and download. Produced by Patricia de Mayo and Kenny Jones.
1. The Trees Grow High
2. My Friends Tell Me
3. Mary Magdalene
5. Highland Widow
6. When I Fall in Love Again
7. Song for a Hero
8. Grace O’Malley
9. Circles and Lines
10. This 1s Where I Run
11. Artichokes and Cauliflowers