The Jellyman’s Daughter. Dead Reckoning. Boat Duck Records

a2210496979_16This second album from the Edinburgh duo comprised of Emily Kelly (vocals, mandolin and guitar) and Graham Coe (Vocals, cello, mandolin and guitar) is a huge step onward from their debut release of a few years back. The pair here have at times an expansive sound, bolstered in the studio by various players who add assorted guitars, banjo, fiddle and double bass to the mix while an entire string section is employed to great effect on several of the songs.

The open with the sweeping melodrama of Quiet Movie, a sumptuous string laden effort with Kelly’s voice multitracked on the chorus on an incredibly moving song which sets the bar high for the remainder of the album. They take a different tack on the following I Hope which is a much more jaunty number despite the hesitation inherent in the lyrics. It comes across almost as a Scottish bluegrass number with Coe’s cello taking an excellent solo while banjos plink and plunk throughout over massed fiddles. Oh Boy dials down the excitement although the stirring harmonies and the finely balanced cello and strings add some drama to the song while recalling some of the more adventurous string bands coming from Americana such as The Punch Brothers and Head For The Hills. This heady mix of complicated time signatures and the pairing of classical playing with a more traditional approach is exemplified on Giving Up, a song which twists and turns with Kelly adding some jazz like intonations in her vocals while Coe’s cello is wonderfully woody and abrasive. They cap this style with a somewhat amazing and amusing instrumental called The Shoogly Peg which comes across as the sort of tune John Hartford might have recorded if he had played cello instead of fiddle.

Elsewhere the pair delve into Gillian Welch territory on the plaintive lament of The Worst of it All, a song which is particularly apt in these troubled times, while the title song is a slight return to the expansive and ethereal delights of the opening number with the string arrangement perfectly complimenting the vocals. Kelly’s voice truly shines on the haunting melody of You Don’t Know Love which again has some wonderfully fibrous cello woven throughout it. A cover of Jimmy Newman’s Cry, Cry, Darling again recalls the spookier side of Gillan Welch and Dave Rawlings as does the closing delicacy, the crepuscular White Shadows which is the most unadorned song here with superb harmony singing over delicately plucked strings and just the slightest murmur of strings. A fine close to an excellent album.

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