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NEW ALBUM: Offa Rex - The Queen of Hearts
OFFA REX – Queen of Hearts
Wasn't quite sure where to put this, but ulitmately, the folk aspect has not been altered beyond recognition, so ....

[Image: offa-rex-the-queen-of-hearts-450.jpg]

Offa Rex is a collaboration between the Decemberists and English folk singer Olivia Chaney. I’m not sure why they chose the name, but the Latin ‘Rex’ refers to a king and there was a King Offa who was a powerful ruler of the area known as Mercia around 757. Mercia was a large chunk of central and southern Anglo Saxon Britain, extending from the Welsh border, or the Kingdom of Gwent as it was then known, all the way to London. I expect the rationale will surface at some point!
Now this is a fascinating meeting because you have traditional folk songs which have been given a bit of alt rock treatment so they end up sounding fairly trippy - some more so than others! Fantastic; an inspired and updated mingling of old and new, a certain degree of psychedelia combined with almost medieval sounds and all very tastefully done - nothing is overwrought. There is a lot of talk of Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention around this release, and while I don't think there's quite the same magic, there is a chemistry of sorts and it’s unsurprising that such similarities have been drawn.
Colin Meloy, frontman for the Decemberists has long held a fascination for the ‘old country’ and its tales, a lot of that is carried through into their own work, and this collaboration came about at his instigation. He is usually very much the driving force behind the band, one is definitely aware that he’s there, and yet while their presence is evident on this album, in the instrumentation and arrangements, he only sings lead on two of the songs, conceding the bulk of the vocal limelight to Ms Chaney who it must be said, has a simply lovely voice (not to mention skills playing the harmonium, harpsichord and other keys). I’d say there is an equal contribution by all involved parties, not least the lesser mentioned band members – a good balance, and it certainly ranks as one of the better releases I’ve heard of late – there is something most appealing (to me) in this unique offering. On the to-purchase list.
“Blackleg Miner” – one of the two with Meloy on lead vocal ….
“The Old Churchyard” …
“Sheepcrook and Black Dog” …

And the title track … 

"The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us." ~ Bill Watterson

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