On Stella Kola’s self-titled debut, Beverly Ketch and Sunburned Hand of the Man’s Robert Thomas teamed up with a plethora of notable collaborators to produce a wholly original take on psychedelic folk music.
The band combines the ethereal with the earthy here, through a mix of acoustic sounds, brass and woodwinds and a bed of keyboards. As you listen to these songs, you occasionally detect the folk-jazz of John Martyn and Pentangle, in addition to the synth-folk experimentations of These Trails and Linda Perhacs. Yet these are only slight hints, as the group cross-pollinates these vibes with everything from baroque pop to new age music into a fully realized and wholly new creation. What you get here is a distinct offshoot of psychedelic folk that could please the ears of a vast audience.
Ketch, of whom you might know from the Weeping Bong Band or Bunwinkies, paints the entire album with vocals that are both innocent and bewitching. Her enigmatic voice is complimented highly by Thomas’ clean acoustic guitar, in addition to a living soundscape of harps and organs, flutes and sax, viola and violins and electric guitar, among other instruments (provided respectively by PG Six, Weeping Bong Band’s Wednesday Knudsen, Donkey No No’s Jen Gelineau and Willie Lane).
Songs like “Summer Night” float with a hushed purity and simplicity that soothes the mind instantly, while other tracks, like “Fair Youth and Dark Lady,” conjure dreamy pastoral visions that belong in an illuminated manuscript. Meanwhile, much of the album, especially “Being is a Beggar’s Blessing,” sounds like a modern equivalent to something Joe Boyd and Robert Kirby could have collaborated on. There is quite a variety of styles and flavors to be found between the two sides of this LP, which really speaks to the many talents of all those involved.
So if Shirley Collins, Kendra Smith and Jan Dukes De Gray are among your favorites, then this is an album you must get to know well. (Side note: and be sure to get it on vinyl, if possible. The superb artwork is absolutely worth it). Click here to order your copy today.