Ellen Mary McGee
Ellen Mary McGee
Though her music is undeniably pretty, McGee is no fragile flower; the proud resignation in her voice evokes a young Stevie Nicks." Monica Kendrick, Chicago Reader "Considering its rich history of local legends, it’s a shame that Nottingham’s typical media portrayal is more This Is England than Robin Hood. Ellen Mary McGee, hailing from a syringe-laden Nottingham estate, but full of tales of mythological figures, may well change some of that. Returning to the folk songs that she learnt while teaching herself guitar, McGee draws upon mythology for lyrical inspiration, but never sounds twee; Acoltyes is underpinned by unnervingly atonal banjo, and you could hardly call references to Theseus and Sisyphus whimsical. Anyone who appreciates the art of folk storytelling will no doubt be impressed by this album, with the suicide-note tale of The Winterling, equal parts morbid and touching, being the highlight.
Like a youthful version of Norma Waterson, McGee’s wavering vocal harks back to a genuine folk tradition, avoiding any explicit references to 21st century life, yet still managing to sound relevant to the modern day." Joe Barton, The Skinny "Ellen Mary McGee should be no stranger to Terrascope readers or indeed the whole of the Terrastock Nation, since she’s been an integral part of the scene for seven or eight years now, and made her solo debut last year at Terrastock 7. Her startlingly clear, passion-filled voice was at the forefront of Saint Joan who lasted from 2002 to 2007, Ellen only calling it a day when the rest of the band were unable to throw themselves into a punishing touring schedule to promote their final album ‘The Wreckers Lantern’ – Never sitting still for long, Ellen’s not one to allow the grass grown under her feet, and her Irish and Romany gypsy roots have left her brushed with wanderlust, which to her credit she uses to great effect in seeking out material for her songs. And what songs they are! Both brilliantly literary and deceptively poetic, they draw on mythology, metaphysics, fantasy and philosophy in equal measure. They are road songs, but her road is never a straight white line through wide-open spaces: it’s a road that meanders from town to country, leaving behind the bright lights, losing itself amidst suburban housing estates, emerging into lonely, windswept heathland and crossing into dense forests where even the clearings hold threats. Backing herself on guitar, banjo and zither Ellen’ songs are steeped in folk traditions, although one or two have definite echoes of the earlier ensemble playing inspired by Movietone which Saint Joan fans will recognise immediately: ‘Theseus’ and ‘From The Stars’ spring to mind.
‘A Watch of Nightingales’ is a particularly strong opening for the album which showcases her voice majestically, and ‘The Fatal Flower Garden’ is one of those songs which are so timelessly brilliant they seem as if they must have been plucked from a dog-eared book of folk-song (actually it’s long been a favourite of her live set). ‘Lord Franklin’ is a traditional arrangement which will be (or should be if you’ve been paying attention!) recognised from the TEA-2 compilation CD released in October last year to coincide with the London Terrastock Tea Party. My personal favourite of the whole set though is ‘Teeth of the Hydra’, which features a haunting guitar into, a metronomic rhythmic backing from Ellen herself and an edge to her voice which is completely and utterly chilling. A wonderful centrepiece to a brilliant album on which all of Ellen’s many talents really do seem to finally come together – I can’t recommend this one enough." Terrascope Online Read more on Last.fm.
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