Nancy Wallace – Old Stories

Album Review | Midwich | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5

Nancy Wallace has once again managed to turn out a spellbinding performance this time in her own right. Her work with The Memory Band on their albums The Memory Band and Apron Strings could almost be seen as a mere apprenticeship for what was to follow and what may very well continue to develop into a promising career. Originally from Suffolk, now based in London, Nancy played her trump card by releasing an EP of folked-up disco/soul classics including “Young Hearts Run Free” and “You’re The First, The Last, My Everything”, which bears little resemblance to the old Barry White hit, and in doing so, reached a wider audience, but without detaching herself at all from her folk roots. Her voice on Old Stories once again sounds effortless as she weaves in and out of her own compositions and traditional songs with seamless fluidity. “Sleeping Sickness” invites us into this fine collection, and once in, there’s no hurry to escape, not until the very last note of the final song, the traditional “Drowned Lover”, which Nancy re-tells with conviction and maturity, augmented by some sensitive violin arrangements courtesy of Jennymay Logan, which goes perfectly well with Richard Lewis’s accordion, hurdy gurdy and banjo. The urge to escape is present in “Many Years”, where Nancy anticipates an imminent journey ‘where the wind won’t find me’ and ‘where the seas lie calm’. The contrasting themes of hope and joy, waiting for love and parting, dovetail neatly together with fine arrangements and generous accompaniment. You tend to want to listen to ‘Old Stories’ in one sitting rather than separate the individual tracks, and the whole thing has a calming effect. It’s the purity of Nancy’s voice that makes everything she touches turn to gold; a voice that sounds as if it’s steeped in the tradition but speaks to more contemporary ears. Old Stories could quite possibly open the gates for another generation of emerging folk lovers, eager to embrace the beautiful cohesion that lies between traditional and contemporary song. Once again, it’s rewarding to be present at the start of something special.