The term “folk music” always bothered me in way. I always thought that the term was used way too liberally, casting a broad stroke to refer to any singer/songwriter with an acoustic guitar, despite the lack of any traditional melody or lyrical context. The said, it makes perfect sense that Anna & Elizabeth are appearing on Smithsonian Folkways, as they present an array of traditional folk tunes via some truly novel approaches. Curating this collection of folk songs was no trivial matter – Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle needed to troll some pretty deep corners to collect these stories and tunes. They’re not leaning on the Carter Family to provide them material (not necessarily a bad thing for those who do), but revealing to us an incredibly rich and beautiful alternative. The Invisible Comes To Us maintains a certain neo-folk purity, with an experimentalism that progressively increases throughout the album.
This is certainly something new and unique. But yet, it’s also something old and familiar. No matter how novel the album gets, there is always that reference to the traditional Irish/Appalachian ballad.
The Invisible Comes To Us commences with a couple of tracks that are indeed unique, but yet don’t stray too far from for the expected. Jeano teases at the possible, and Black Eyed Susan provides an even further glance. By the third track, Ripest of Apples, the complete breadth of what Anna and Elizabeth are prepared to deliver begins to be revealed. Ripest of Apples, a story of a lovelorn lost to “across the big blue ocean’, begins expectedly as many other ballads, with traditional melody, harmonies and instrumentation in tact – Dark and almost dirge-like, literally marching progressively and steadily onward. Somewhere around the minute-thirty mark, an atypical chromatic refrain provides an increased sense of uneasiness, and a sense of urgency, dare I say, I haven’t heard in a ‘folk’ song since Dylan’s Gates of Eden.
True that most music videos are often an afterthought, with little-to-no relation to the pure song crafting process or outcome. However, give this one a look. I think this really lends a key perspective into the Artists’ sensibilities. Anna & Elizabeth are not afraid to tread into some bold territory, either sonically or visually.
By the Shore is perhaps the furthest departure from the expected, dancing between spoken word statements in canon-like phrases at one point, into singular but sparse melodies at another. There is an underlying narrative beneath this well-thought composition. Farewell to Erin continues the experimental journey before returning the listeners to the much more grounded, much more lofty, much more simple, much more spiritual Mother in the Graveyard.
The Invisible Comes to Us is a revitalizing look at a genre I previously thought tired, since the alt-county rejuvenation of the early 2000’s. I am SO happy I stumbled upon this one.
Rating 90 / 100