1. O Bittersweet Dear Madeline
2. Tis Rambletide in Ambleside
3. Courting Autumn
5. Ca' the Yowes
6. September's Way
10. Vespertine Autumn
11. Cold Blows the Wind
Magic: this deeply charming CD is a breath of fresh autumn air, replete with all the melancholy beauty of that season but largely eschewing what one might term its SADder aspects and instead evoking its positives. Courting Autumn is infused with the feel of halcyon early-70s UK psych-folk, but is arguably even more timeless: it transplants English Gothic into New England with more than a glint at the kindling. The gentle mysticality and beauteous strangeness of the title song is a good entry point for Pamela’s world, for it conjures her road-to-Damascus discovery of seminal folk acts (Pentangle, ISB, Fairport, Drake) and traditional Irish music. At one point these led her to Ireland and a chance encounter with Johnny Moynihan (whose protégée she became for a time), while more recently she’s appeared at the Green Man Festival alongside assorted nu-folk luminaries, not to mention garnering fulsome praise from Shirley Collins on this disc’s press release. Pamela’s performing style is enchanting: she has an attractive singing voice, sensitive and responsive, seductively sweet-toned but not sickly. I also caught fleeting echoes therein of Anne Briggs, Sharron Kraus, Vashti Bunyan, Bridget St John and Charlotte Greig, also Martha Tilston (an occasional quaversomeness) and even Grace Slick.
Pamela’s voice is brilliantly complemented by her well-developed guitar playing, which is at the same time deftly intricate and hauntingly full-toned. She also has an acute ear for colouristic arrangement, conjuring some rich and uncannily persuasive chamber-folk tapestries with the assistance of additional musicians who (variously) add cello, violin, viola and recorder to her own guitar, banjo, harmonium, dulcimer and glockenspiel. The combination of unusual instrumental detail and finely-honed poetic imagery provides some stop-you-in-your-tracks, neck-prickling highlights, like the stately Netherworld with its ethereal bowed-psaltery backdrop, the unexpected interpolation of a sitar on Ca’ The Yowes (one of two traditional songs compellingly reinterpreted here) and the chilling yet spookily comforting spoken-word closer Fare-Thee-Forlorn, while the delicate rippling bouquet of Pipkin and the curiously edgy spinning-wheel ambience of Woolgathering provide further delightful and memorable moments.
The production is intimate yet wonderfully atmospheric, and the album possesses a striking aural unity despite it being recorded in “odd nooks and crannies” at a variety of pastoral locations. The simple, homespun nature of the lovingly-assembled hand-crafted packaging is also most attractive. All told, this is a very special, seriously beautiful album, which also has the measure (though not the more undesirable pretensions) of a personal artistic statement: one of considerable power, originality and vision. Serendipity’s a wonderful thing, and all’s well with the world after all…
-David Kidman, fRoots Magazine, U.K.