Elowen – Elowen

EP Review | Self Release | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 3/5

Cornwall-based four-piece Elowen were just about ready to release their debut 14 track song collection and passed on a preview copy for me to ponder upon.   I pondered upon this long and hard, whilst being treated to a potted history of the sort of songs I have lived with for the best part of the last four decades and the results of my pondering are quite pleasant indeed.  No wonder it took so long for me to chuck in a response, I was too busy wallowing in my own personal nostalgia.  It’s back to simpler times with this, their self titled debut, to times when maids were sweetly singing in Bedlam, Johnny was busy cobbling away in the workshop, the Scots and English were trying to reconcile their differences on either side of the Tweed and the English Rose was actually a rather lovely folk song and not Kate Winslet as we all previously thought.  There’s a sense upon hearing Elowen that Kim, Michelle, Phil and Yvette have been listening to the right stuff over the years, and have absorbed some of the finer aspects of the folk revival.  The choice of material seems to have been borrowed from some of the better sources and I cannot help but wonder whether some of the songs on this album were learned from the same places I first heard them.  “Both Sides the Tweed” couldn’t really come from anywhere other than Dick Gaughan’s A Handful of Earth, which I spent much of the Eighties wearing out on the Dansette myself, but I may be wrong.  There’s a pretty even blend of both traditional and contemporary material as well as a couple of Cornish songs cultivated over the years somewhere closer to home.  Neil Young’s “Old Man” is the surprise inclusion on this collection but fits in well with the other more traditional fare.  The decision to add a nice flute part makes all the difference between a straight cover and a nice new arrangement.  The standout song is probably the traditional “Ornament Tree” (or “Bonny Portmore”), which maintains a flavour of Bert Jansch, but manages to break free of the guitar drenched arrangement and becomes much lighter and more accessible and reminds us once again what a beautiful song this actually is.  Elowen’s album has put a smile on my face and has unwittingly set my imagination on an otherworldly course, through vernacular agrarian festivities and medieval pageants, complete with Pre-Raphaelite apparel.  These songs and these harmonies bring out this sort of harmless daydreaming.