A five piece acoustic band from Bristol, Young Waters were previously known as Snufkin, a name which to our mind is perfect for a folk group who cite The Incredible String Band and Fairport Convention as influences. However listening to this excellently played and well mannered collection of chamber folk music it’s probably for the best that they underwent the name change. Indeed there’s little here which would remind one of the aforementioned bands as Young Waters seem more enamoured of the tight song structures one recalls from Pentangle (without the jazz and blues influences) and leaning more towards Renbourn rather than Jansch in the guitar stakes.
Aside from some impassioned moments on Weary Soul and a final dash to the line on the closing song much of the album is a courtly passage through finely entwined instrumental dexterity supporting Theo Passingham’s limpid songs. The majority of the album was recorded in one day at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios (a prize won by the band at The Bath Folk Festival) but it doesn’t sound rushed, instead the songs unwind at a steady pace. The opener Dust sets the scene as fiddle, guitar and a burbling bass slowly lead into the song before Passingham and singer Kerry Ann Smith intone the words in a delicate fashion. They almost tiptoe through the song although it does wax and wane and there’s some fine counterpoint singing. A cover of Jesca Hoop’s Enemy is more down to earth and there’s a hint of the eerie atmosphere contained in some of the soundtrack to The Wicker Man. Don’t Stare at the Sun follows as Passingham’s fairly unique reedy voice strains over a simple guitar melody on a threnody of sorts which reeks of alienation.
As the band weave away through their songs one continues to be impressed by their dexterity with Bleary Eyed a pizzicato delight while Eternal Bliss follows in the footsteps of Don’t Stare at the Sun although here the instrumentation is more fully fleshed. However, as the songs meander for the most part over five minutes with little in the way of dynamics the listener can drift off. A cover of a traditional song, Polly Vaughn, sung acapella, does grab one’s attention and sets up the closing number, Swimming Pool which is perhaps the most fully realised song on the album. Here the band almost swing and there’s a satisfying progression in the song as it builds up to its instrumental break and then settles back down before its closing crescendo.
Overall, it’s an impressive debut album and one would hope that as the band progress they can loosen up in the studio. That said, there’s enough here to indicate that on stage they would be quite entertaining as they can whip up a storm when required.