FolkWords Reviews

‘Steer by the Stars’ from Telling the Bees “… musical theatre for your ears”

(May 15, 2015)

The strangely ethereal, darkly explorative folk purveyed by Telling the Bees returns once more with their latest album, ‘Steer By The Stars’. As before, their otherworldly music enchants you into wraithlike worlds filled with theatrical experience and eccentric narrative meanderings. Each vivid sphere conjured through Andy Letcher’s delicately fashioned songs built around mesmerising tapestries of interwoven musicianship. Each mythic journey characterised by lingering vocals and richly illustrated music to build musical theatre for your ears.

telling the bees album artworkThe elements combine to deliver progressive folk that swoops from far edges to pivotal gyres through baroque, classical and psych to craft something utterly unique. A certain darkness and folklorist warning surrounds the shadowy tale of ’A Puppeteer Came Into Town’, contrasted by the revels of ‘Oxford May Song’ and gentle shared understanding within ‘Windflower’. There’s finally an album place for the wonderful ‘One More Mazurka’ and the delightfully irreverent and secretive life of ‘The Scholar Gypsy’, while to close there’s splendid hope and resilient refusal within ‘Steer By The Stars’.

Captivated by the calibre of their work since the early days of ‘Untie the Wind’ and ‘An English Arcanum’, to my ears the intervening years and expansion to a five-piece has enhanced and expanded the breadth and depth of their music. ‘Steer by the Stars’ reveals the progress of their poetic lyrics and development of their hauntingly beautiful music ... and I’m certain the life-giving residents of the hives still listen.

Telling the Bes are Andy Letcher (vocals, mandolin, English bagpipes, stomp box, percussion, samples) Jane Griffiths (fiddle, viola, harmonium, backing vocals) Colin Fletcher (electric bass, double bass, guitars, euphonium, WEM copicat) Josie Webber (cello, electric piano, backing vocals) and Jim Penny (Anglo concertina, saxophones). The cover of ‘Steer by the Stars’ features fabulously evocative illustration by Rima Staines, whose artwork has unfailingly reflected the characters and places brought to life by Telling the Bees. Find both album and band here: www.tellingthebees.co.uk

Reviewer: Tim Carroll

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