Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Laura Marling – Rambling Man

Suddenly, The XX’s Mercury win doesn’t seem like quite such a sure thing…


Alex Macpherson: From the lilting melody to the familiar imagery to Laura Marling’s own quavery vocal inflections, “Rambling Man” finds the singer at her most consciously traditional — so much so that you almost expect to discover that it actually is an arrangement of an old English folk song. Marling feels at home cleaving to her genre values — it’s both comforting to listen to and, one suspects, for her to have made — but lacks the compelling singularity of her best work.

Martin Skidmore: I am on the verge of getting interested in her, but it won’t quite click. Her folky voice has some useful expressiveness and firmness, as do her lyrics, but it all comes together to end up like a tenth-generation Dylan wannabe without the brilliance, so far. I reserve the right to fall for her at some subsequent stage, but right now I remain tepid.

John Seroff: Gotta say I prefer when she’s aping Gillian Welch over Bobby Zimmerman, but Marling shows off a robust, solid voice and a quiver full of talent either way so it’s probably not prudent to complain. That said, this smells like good filler from what I hope to be a better album. I’ll take vanilla for the moment, but I doubt I’ll be listening to this much once I get the whole package.

Edward Okulicz: In as much as a nicely-selling folk-pop album needs singles, any track on I Speak Because I Can is good enough to stand in isolation, and “Rambling Man” is one of its most accessible, direct songs because of its evocative lyrics and deftly timeless melody. Halfway to wailing, her vocal performance is striking, distinctive and cathartic, and her bold strumming is steady and satisfying.

Anthony Easton: The sea, and the birds, the man in the Fairisle sweater, and the idea of a rambling man, high end celtic cliches, spit shined to a high gloss respectability — and like Fionn Regan, just because I know how the game is played does not mean that I cannot fall head over heels when it is played well.

Alex Ostroff: Most modern folk leaves me underwhelmed; it might be well-crafted and technically capable but there’s a sense of gravitas that’s usually absent. Marling captures that timelessness almost effortlessly, building from sparse chords and fragile vocals to haunting harmonies and an arrangement that’s full without ever overpowering her voice. By the climax, when she intones, “And it’s hard to accept yourself as someone you don’t desire / as someone you don’t want to be,” her wisdom sounds hard-won and the wanderlust of the chorus is more than earned.

Katherine St Asaph: Someday, Laura Marling’s membership in the Upcoming Quirky British Female Musician Bloc will be seen as an exercise in pointless taxonomy, like crowing about an uptick in blonde singers whose names end in A. It’s not so much that she doesn’t seem her age on this — what 20-year-old doesn’t cherish her individuality? But the music swells in just the right places, and Laura’s developed gravitas that Alas I Cannot Swim never quite managed. I can only imagine the next leap forward.

7 Responses to “Laura Marling – Rambling Man”

  1. Will mention that I kind of liked this — was wavering between a 7 and 8 — the one time I listened, but didn’t trust my judgment, and could think of nothing to say, though “Sandy Denny” and “Marianne Faithfull” did come to mind. Scores above may inspire me to try it again.

  2. If it helps, it’s like the third worst song on the album! I’d head straight to “Hope In The Air” or “Alpha Shallows”.

  3. Those are the two stand-outs for me too (along with “Devil’s Spoke” and “What He Wrote” and “Goodbye England”) (it’s so effed-up that this scored higher than “Devil’s Spoke”, incidentally).

  4. For what it’s worth, Devil’s Spoke would get a 9, at least, from me.

  5. Lex, I think maybe it’s just that circumstance led to people predisposed to loving this not having time to hear/review Devil’s Spoke. I somehow never got around to Marling until four days before we reviewed this and I love her now.

  6. Weirdly, “Goodbye England” is my second least favourite – least favourite is “Made by Maid” – and they’re probably an 8 and a 7 respectively. The rest of the album is solid 9/10 territory for me, I’d probably give each of the last four tracks a 10. “Devil’s Spoke” I wish I’d reviewed and given a [9] to.

  7. This is good. Kind of amazed Joni Mitchell never came up though.