Laura Marling "Once I Was An Eagle"

British folk artist Laura Marling offers a dark, intense, and ambitious journey through love.

Ambition is about purpose and not abundance or excess. British folk artist Laura Marling sticks to this convention on her 5th studio release, a concept album that explores how naiveté impacts love relationships. Marling is selective in her collaborators, choosing only good friend and cellist Ruth de Turberville, bassist Rex Horan, and her producer and Guru Ethan John. Recorded in just ten days Marling’s vocals and guitar were recorded live, mostly in one take. Additional instrumentation is minimal and raw and yet feels dense. John is expert in pulling out tumultuous emotions through well-designed placement of dueling instruments.

Once I Was An Eagle is an intense listening experience and one not to be taken in quickly. Marling’s melodies are subtle, delicate things that linger under her richly toned vocals. Although she possesses a remarkable voice Marling refuses to use it in acrobatic fashion. Instead she whispers lyrics, sounding exhausted before she gains a new wind and sails into another verse. Her guitar work is percussive, searching out the rhythm more than melody. Her arrangements are complex and unconventional, more akin to the work of Nick Drake than to her contemporary’s pop-folk, ala, Mumford and Sons.

Once I Was An Eagle begins with the concept of the naïve individual who intrepidly falls deeply into love, lacking the knowledge of how to protect oneself from its dangerous side effects, or even knowing that one should seek protection. By mid album this bitter knowledge had dripped into the heart and is soon converted into anger. Marling uses a musical reference from folk’s pantheon; “Master Hunter” finds the female protagonist telling her love “it ain’t me babe, ” repurposing Dylan’s line for a new generations changing roles. This track rolls smoothly into “Little Castor” which finds Marling explaining that “I’m not your tiny dancer.” “Devil’s Resting Place” offers a fascinating and dark arrangement that begins in a ghostly whisper but builds to a witching furor.

Once I Was An Eagle is a dark, compelling, and ambitiously adventurous journey for a listener who is willing to give it a dedicated listen.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)