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Smoke Fairies

British folk-rock was going through a bit of a renaissance when Chichester-based duo (aka singer-songwriters Jessica Davies and Katherine Blamire) burst on to the scene in 2007. Friends from school (they were in the choir), their influences were grounded in 70s Americana and in Brit-folk giants such as FAIRPORT CONVENTION and PENTANGLE; their discovery of the genre heightened when they worked as car park attendants at the Sidmouth Folk Festival.
Returning to London from a year out in Vancouver, Canada, SMOKE FAIRIES secured a support slot on a BRYAN FERRY tour. It was also a chance to promote their self-financed debut set STRANGE THE THINGS (2007) {*6}. Described as “dark, lustful blues-folk” by Mojo magazine, SF went from strength to strength, culminating in another prestigious billing next to The HANDSOME FAMILY. With JACK WHITE as patron (producer and session guitarist and drummer), the duo’s first real break came via the Third Man Label release of limited-edition `Gastown’ single. Surfacing from rural Cornwall via New Orleans, SMOKE FAIRIES (now on a V2 imprint offshoot) finally delivered that difficult sophomore set, THROUGH LOW LIGHT AND TREES (2010) {*8}; a trip to the States to support LAURA MARLING and a guest appearance on RICHARD HAWLEY’s EP `False Lights From The Land’ helped boost their CV.
Of the album itself, comparisons have been made to KATE & ANNA McGARRIGLE, their sublime hippie-folk harmonies and intertwining blues guitar-playing on ethereal beauties like `Summer Fades’, `Devil In My Mind’ (very TREES), `Hotel Room’ and `Storm Song’ all compelling cuts with cult appeal; later in the year Mojo invited them to contribute `Ohio’ to a NEIL YOUNG/`Harvest’ 40th anniversary compilation CD. Their subsequent EP (as always, limited-edition), `This Is A Reflection’, featured covers of ANN PEEBLES’ `Do I Need You’, MARK LANEGAN’s `Wish You well’, The CULT’s `She Sells Sanctuary’, ABBA’s `The Visitors (Crackin’ Up)’ and KILLING JOKE’s `Requiem’.
Fleshing out their Anglo-fied, electric folk-rock on BLOOD SPEAKS (2012) {*7}, the bewitching SMOKE FAIRIES drew in listeners from across the ocean; if one could imagine FLEETWOOD MAC sharing studio space with MELLOW CANDLE (examples `The Three Of Us’, `Take Me Down When You Go’ and the earthy `Let Me Know’), then one could best paint a picture of the gothic duo.
Switching from V2 Records to Full Time Hobby, 2014’s eponymous SMOKE FAIRIES {*7} sold well enough to crack the Top 75. Female Folk acts at a premium all around the globe (from The STAVES and THIS IS THE KIT to Ms. MARLING), the sultry SF duo were right to consider their future within the genre. A subtle blend of bluesy dream pop, the sea change was clear as a misty morning for the likes of `Koto’, `Your Own Silent Movie’ and `Are You Crazy?’, whilst `We’ve Seen Birds’ and `Shadow Inversions’ muscled in on their new-found commerciality within the esoteric, siren-rock confines. By the close of the year, the self-penned, tinsel-tinged WILD WINTER {*7}, proved they could turn Xmas into a white but alt-folk one; the icy `Give And Receive’ a highlight, as was `3 Kings’ and the spooky `So Much Wine’ and the hum-a-long `Snowglobe Blizzard’.
© MC Strong 2011-GFD2 // rev-up MCS Dec2015

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