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Firefay and Alison O'Donnell - The Travels of Janus

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 5 / 5 / 2021

Firefay and Alison O'Donnell - The Travels of Janus
Label: Golden Pavilion
Format: Download


Evocative and atmospheric second collection of songs from folk legend Alison O’Donnell with Firefay

Alison O’Donnell’s journey in music started back in the 1960s when at a very young age she formed Mellow Candle, a band that has gained more coverage and attention in recent years that it did when it first formed. Alison is still very active in music and is today still recording mesmerising music and going very much her own way as she always did musically. Never one to follow trends, more of an innovator, Alison has never really deserted her folk roots but has always found ways of keeping her music contemporary and relevant. This has led Alison to lend her vocals and songwriting skills to numerous bands ; Fibbertigibbet, The Owl Service, Head South By Weaving and her impressive work with United Bible Studies. In between Alison has also found time to release solo albums under her own name as well. It’s never been easy to classify the music that Alison produces; trying to explain to those who are newcomers, those unfamiliar with her music, who Alison can be compared to is challenging. The easy way out is to place her in the acid/psychedelic folk genre, and this isn’t too far of a stretch when trying to put the feel of her music into words. But there’s so much more to the sounds that this remarkable artist produces than quoting one genre allows which is why she is chosen to add her vocals and words to so many different bands. ‘The Travels of Janus’ is Alison’s second collection of songs with Firefay and a follow-up to 2014’s ‘Anointed Queen’ collaboration. The collection consists of ten songs, and, as far as we can tell, and hear, the majority are original songs written by Alison with Firefay mainstay Adam Bulewski (one of the masters at creating the atmospheric soundscapes which are a perfect carrier for Alison’s haunting vocals) but the closing eight-minute live cut is a reading of Nico’s ‘Frozen Warnings’ from ‘The Marble Index’ which is just as affecting as the original. Alison’s reading is as chilling as Nico’s; her vocals really do send shivers down the spine and one can’t help but be moved by her performance on this track, Bulewski’s arrangement coupled with the bands creative treatment of the song take their reading into fresh zones, and while this treatment is still unsettling at times it adds new dimensions to the song. There’s an almost Alison-free track at midpoint on the collection; the mainly instrumental ‘My Lady’s Dompe’ gives the members of Firefay a chance to shine before Alison finally makes an appearance with some outstanding wordless, scat singing, another pointer as to how expressive this vastly underrated singer is. The laid-back jazzy vibe that ‘Between Two African Rivers’ creates is further evidence that grouping Alison in with the progressive/psych folk genre is not giving full justice to her talents while the opening ‘The Coming to London of Wily Will’ is a perfect example as to why that genre is the easy way out while trying to explain Alison to the uninitiated. ‘Cosmic Harlequin’ displays the band’s more progressive leanings while still keeping the listener’s attention, Alison’s vocals again adding just as much atmosphere to the track as the various instruments and effects used. The haunting ‘Blue Eyes in Belsize Park’ is a highlight of this collection. A gorgeous vocal performance from Alison with minimal yet affective backing as the story unfolds the listener is drawn deeper into the picture painted by her words. ‘Shining Crystal Meadow’ is simply beautiful, again mainly an instrumental which takes the listener on a journey, the few repeated lines that Alison breathes into the song making that trip even more picturesque. There’s no filler on this collection of songs; those that have shied away from anything that remotely resembles acid/weird/progressive folk should really lend an ear to this latest offering from Alison O’Donnell and Firefly. it might be just the set that will start off your journey into the diversely beautiful world that Alison O’Donnell inhabits in her music.

Track Listing:-
1 The Coming to London of Wily Will
2 Between Two African Rivers
3 Cosmic Harlequin
4 Blue Eyed Girl in Belsize Park
5 My Lady's Dompe (Live)
6 Child of Knife and Fist
7 Shining Crystal Meadow
8 A Cyclical Thing
9 Rocks on the Beaten Path
10 Frozen Warnings (Live)

Band Links:-

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