Laura Smyth - The Charcoal Black & The Bonny Grey

2015 ep

The Charcoal Black & The Bonny Grey - Laura Smyth

the bright young folk review

A joy of traditional folk is the frisson provided from recognisable place names in songs. A personal connection with a town within a day’s drive of home is hard to better. Laura Smyth and Ted Kemp base their EP of songs around Laura’s native Manchester. Claiming influences from 60s folk, the five songs here err on the side of the earlier travelling singers.

Smyth’s voice is a beautiful instrument, sharp as crystal and powerful. It drives the melody, ably supported by their mixture of instruments (concertina, guitar, banjo). Laurel Swift provides additional fiddle.

Manchester Angel, a soldier’s love story, begins with cello notes. It features keening fiddle and a tune you can imagine Cara Dillon polishing. Here it retains a welcome authenticity.

The title track has some nice banjo and mentions of Oldham. The standout is I’ll Have A Collier. A rebellious daughter is admonished by her mother, refusing gifts in lieu of her true love. A traditional take on ’You’re not going out with him!’, it’s wrapped in a finger picked melody.

Trooper and Joan O’ Grinfield maintain the quality. The latter includes another mention of Oldham - two mentions in five songs must be a record? The former, enhanced with Ted’s baritone, is a sad story of a fighter fallen under the spell of the fine town ladies. The EP is a enjoyable introduction to Laura and Ted’s music. Lovers of traditional folk as well as those new to the genre will welcome it into their homes.

Paul Woodgate

Recorded and mixed in May 2014 by Rob Harbron, and features fiddler Laurel Swift.

1. Manchester Angel
2. The Charcoal Black and The Bonny Grey
3. I’ll Have A Collier
4. Trooper
5. Joan O’ Grinfield

Laura Smyth discography