The Valleys in the Flatlands is the debut album from Midlands-based four-piece band Anna Elias and the Forlorn Hope.
They have produced an album of gentle soothing songs with poetic lyrics (indeed the title track contains the line “he used words like poetry”). The lyrics cover some of the timeless subject matter of so many folk songs: love gained and lost (Where We Stand, Into the Night), and the passing of the seasons (Plough Song, Indian Summer). The songs are accompanied by guitar, cello and piano, with guest musicians including Saul Rose, Karine Polwart and Will Pound.
One track that really stands out is Where We Stand, which deals with the traditional subject of a young man going away to sea, leaving his sweetheart waiting for him. Sadly, there is no happy ending in this song.
Another striking track is Evensong, which features the choirboys of Southwell Minster. The Minster is also mentioned in the title track, and there does seem to be a spiritual theme to a number of the songs. The opening track, Lullaby, is a blessing over a sleeping child, while Valleys in the Flat Lands tells of a girl praying while the bells in the minster ring.
The area where the band members live is a major influence on their songwriting - the fields of oilseed rape in the surrounding countryside even get a mention in Plough Song - a modern sight, in a song dealing with the traditional theme of the changing seasons.
One interesting feature is the three short tracks (each less than a minute long) each bearing the name of some kind of road which leads the listener from one track to another (Via Dela Rocca, Rue de Lille and Shady Lane).
A beautifully constructed album.Shelley Rainey
Released in September 2011
2. Valleys in the Flatlands
3. Via Dela Rocca
4. Sarah Jane
5. Where We Stand
6. Plough Song
7. When You’re Gone
8. Rue de Lille
9. Indian Summer
10. The Wanderer
11. If You Were
13. Shady Lane
14. Into the Night