The folk scene has been busy recently throwing up a host of youngsters carrying on the newer tradition of picking up the mantle that commenced with the emergence of Eliza Carthy some years ago. Seth Lakeman, Chris Wood Sam Lee and Karine Polwart all spring to mind while we reviewed Will Varley just the other week. Now it’s time for Fabian Holland to join this band of new wave Albion warriors with his excellent self titled debut. Holland sings and plays guitar, indeed he plays guitar superbly with his finger picking at times recalling some of John Renbourn’s work. Aside from two traditional songs (Banks of The Dee and Dr. Price) and a cover of Skip James’ Hard Time Killing Floor he has written an album of songs that fit comfortably into the folk tradition whether it be tales of lusty landlord’s daughters, portraits of outcasts or more personal reflections in the vein of Richard Thompson as on Like Father Like Son.
While Holland’s voice and guitar dominate he’s accompanied on occasion by fiddle, melodeon, harmonica and double bass all of which are used sparingly adding a slight dash of colour to Holland’s monochromatic melodies. The opening song The Landlord’s Daughter is the most traditional sounding one here and it’s not too far a flight of fancy to imagine that this could have been unearthed from an old Pentangle album with its dazzling guitar and bass interplay. Likewise Hard Time Killing Floor abandons the delta to revisit an early sixties bedsit land where folk like Bert Jansch were learning to play by listening to old blues albums. Holland proves however that he is a contemporary artist with several songs that address current issues. Little Boy Jonny resonates with military forays in Afghanistan while Charlie and Mad Eric are doleful tales of folk cast aside by society.
A brave and assured debut it’s a fair bet that if Holland continues in this vein he’ll be up there when the next BBC folk awards are handed out.