Rhythm & Views

Vashti Bunyan

Vashti Bunyan first began recording in Britain in the mid-1960s. She released one album, 1970's Just Another Diamond Day, and then quit the music business. Lookaftering is Bunyan's first record since, and even though 35 years have passed, Bunyan's songs have stayed true to her '60s folk roots.

Bunyan's high, wandering voice and billowing, haunting melodies are reminiscent of Joan Baez and Judy Collins; listening to Lookaftering is like discovering a well-recorded, long-lost relic of the '60s folk revival. The orchestral arrangements give the songs their very traditional English folk aura: The oboe on "Lately" picks up the vocal melody, and immediately, Lookaftering is infused with folk gothic: "Never was much given to prayer / but lately I'm pleading with the air / to keep you safe from harm my dears," Bunyan sings, nearly whispers. Many of the songs on Lookaftering wrestle with a mother's deep and fearful love for her children, and depict a sad, fairy tale darkness through the lyrics and through the instrumentation. "Indifference is the hardest blow / it is the wind and icy snow / that falls on green shoots as they grow," sings Bunyan on "Turning Backs" as trumpet and piano evoke "the wind and icy snow."

Devendra Banhart's steel guitar on "Wayward" gives the song a more modern edge, and Joanna Newsom's harp on "Against the Sky" and "If I Were" fits in with Bunyan's aesthetic flawlessly. Partly because of the inclusion of younger musicians like Newsom, who invoke a similar aesthetic, Lookaftering sounds at once like it was lifted straight from 1970, and completely contemporary.

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