Usually a biography that contains stories of an artist’s Romany Gypsy influences and a love of ghost stories would have us running to the horizon. However, there’s something this artist has done with the traditional English song that’s gritty and dark. Once you hear the rest of her biography you realise she’s destined for success, she always has been. Her upbringing clearly set her off on this direction, influencing her to her core, infusing with her soul and 2012 should see her finally reach the first big junction in that destiny as she sets about releasing her debut album. Thankfully the Gypsy workshops her father used to take her to as a child didn’t exclude her from experimenting outside of that particular box, as we now see her confidently striding along new paths and it’s resulted in some pretty exceptional music.
Mary Epworth is the younger sister of Paul. We better address this and get it out of the way early, as it will only be the elephant in the room otherwise. Not that she’s in Paul Epworth’s shadows or anything, as she clearly has sackfuls of her own talent, but by having one of the world’s most important producers du jour as a brother must be a factor in her ability to seek studio advice or make industry connections. If her album isn’t immaculately produced we’re pretty sure her brother will have something to say about it. The list of recent clients that have been in his studio reads like one long glorious roster of best-selling artists, including Adele, Florence & The Machine, Friendly Fires, Bloc Party, Primal Scream – we could go on – so it’s no wonder his work earned him no less than four Grammys at the 2012 award ceremony. If only ten percent of his stardust rubs off on his sister then she’ll be a massive success.
Thankfully her own abilities and song craft will get her there anyway. As we mentioned, this is clearly a musical family. She’s due to release her debut album, Dream Life, in June on Hand Of Glory records. To compound her beautifully balanced contrast between light and shade, we heard that the album was partly put together inside a barn near her mother’s ancestral home in the Norfolk countryside, whilst other parts were recorded in an art-deco apartment above a brothel in East Berlin. What a year that must have been! It’s entirely appropriate for a record that tips it’s feathered brim to fuzzed-out folk, with all it’s crashing acoustics, as much as it bows its Trilby to the classy string and brass arrangements. Quite rightly this is fantastically produced, not by brother Paul, but by Will Twynham, a co-owner of the Hand Of Glory label. He’s done it’s wide open scale all the justice it deserves.
The track that’s garnered most attention, quite rightly, is the fantastically sizeable, Black Doe. You can see it’s video below and witness one of the songs of the year. It’s absolutely massive in scale, with gritty guitar chords that scrape along it’s centre all the way through, breaking up the loose banjo plucking like a wonderfully clumsy bully in a playground. It stomps away from the outset, as Mary’s gossamer vocals are laid out on top of it all. If you thought the opening was oversized just wait for the chorus. It opens up the chords and makes the song feel like some idiot has pushed you into a boxing ring. This is a song you don’t so much listen to, more like you have to go ten rounds with it. The verses are simply there so you can take out your gumshield for a brief moment and have someone sponge you down before the bell tolls on the next chorus. If nothing else Mary wins the “Biggest Chorus Of 2012” award hands down.
The single is due out on April 23rd and they also hand out a batch of very handy remixes, from Young Edits, The Slow Waves, Jape and Small Pyramids. The latter of which we attach below so you can hear what the LA-based Zach Hunsaker has applied to it with his usual confident but understated electronics. It’s a twisting remix that flies in the face of the original to good effect, utilising the vocals in a manner more reminiscent of Class Actress. It’s another fine choice by Mary as she broadens her fearless appeal by allowing her music to cross over the genres. Artists as hybrid as this show off exactly how complex and interesting the world is, as a multitude of influences open up and infuse with youthful minds from all corners of the globe. Ultimately though, it’s not your upbringing, your useful industry connections or your destiny that give you a successful career in music, it’s the quality of the tunes you write. And Miss Epworth writes ‘em just fine. (MB)
MARY EPWORTH – BLACK DOE (SMALL PYRAMIDS REMIX)
MARY EPWORTH – DROPOUT