Angus & Julia Stone - Down the Way
This is the second album from the Australian brother/sister indie folksters, following the 2007 debut A Book Like This. Folk music is primed to make a breakthrough into the mainstream following the impact last year by Mumford & Sons plus a well received release already this year from Midlake, and this duo seem to have the credentials to join the throng.
The couple share both song-writing and vocal duties and both have been blessed with strong characteristic voices. Julia is on such duties for the most part and she exerts an evocative quality that is allowed to blossom amongst the musical arrangements, predominantly driven by acoustic guitar and/or piano. There is a complimentary presence from the amalgam, creating a harmonious and harmonic result, embracing and nursing a certain fragility in a lot of the material. Then, when the music rises to take control, there's a sophistication to it that adds a textured finishing gloss. Take For You, which features some neat acoustic guitar picking underneath a haunting performance by Julia, then is lifted by an uprising of piano and bass, into an electric guitar climax; a formula that is utilised elsewhere. On Big Jet Plane, the lady adopts something of a Southern American drawl, which might sound like a peculiar slant, but it works. The pièce de résistance though is Yellow Brick Road, where Angus takes the mic and references Neil Young before sloping into a magnificent guitar solo straight off of Stars 'n Bars. But the core of the album is a solemn beauty and this is perfectly executed on both Draw Your Swords and I'm Not Yours, again via some raw heartfelt singing from Julia, with an almost barren musical backdrop. “I can think of a thousand reasons why I don't believe in you” she croons on the latter and, whilst the lyrics don't always possess a similar depth, there is poignancy a plenty to fit the tone of the album.
It's a carefully crafted offering, displaying true ability from the duo in a merging together that maybe only siblings could create. Whether it gains the exposure it merits in order to gather recognition is perhaps questionable, but if the indie-folk charge really is upon us, then I am ready to embrace it if there are releases like this.