Agony Shorthand

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Far too airy and gentle to get even a delicate kitten claw into my noggin, VASHTI BUNYAN’s second album 35 years after her first one is just too precious for words. Granted, it’s hard for me to lay into a 55-year-old woman who’s decided to make music again after so many years fighting the good fight on the domestic front. And let it additionally be said that a year ago I hadn’t even yet heard “Just Another Diamond Day”, her 1970 debut, nor did I have a chance yet to proclaim it the album that officially obliterated the snobby defense perimeter I’d built around British folk music of the late 60s/early 70s. But “Lookaftering” is missing a lot of that record’s buoyancy and bounce – every song is almost like a weepy classical chamber music piece, lilting and lovely for sure, but to a fault. There’s certainly none of the winking spirit that made “Just Another Diamond Day” a fun record in its way -- no “Jog Along Bess”, no “Timothy Grub”, not even a “Lily Pond” in the bunch. Vashti’s voice is gorgeous in the way that some non-classically trained singers can still really knock you flat, but when paired with sub-standard musical backing or just pure nothingness, its effect is kinda dulled if you know what I mean. For the young folk-devouring generation of 2003-05, the hallowed return of Vashti Bunyan from the Hebrides will be a blessed event in any case, but those who want a lasting record for the ages will definitely not find it here.