At the beginning of lockdown, as people searched for positives, conversations frequently turned to the unexpected joys of having nowhere far to roam. Unable to go anywhere for more than an hour a day, people were forced to find ways to make the most of their immediate vicinity. For traditional folk musicians, an obvious version of this was to look to the songs of their community – those Roud numbers that lived only metres from their front doors; neighborhood songs; songs with local postcodes.
Bryony Griffith and Alice Jones did just that. Well-versed in their local Yorkshire traditions, they spent their various lockdowns digging deeper. The result is A Year too Late and a Month too Soon – a bright and airy album that, despite having been delayed several times for reasons of covidity, rejects the claustrophobia of those pandemic years.
Filled with the stories and characters of their surrounding landscape, it comes across as a deeply personal, albeit welcoming collection. This is partly down to the perfect match of the singers’ two voices, which sound as though they were cut from the same gratifying cloth. Combined, they weave a homely but enchanting spell, and it’s pleasing that the sparse production gives them plenty of room to shine. There’s no reinventing the wheel here; A Year Too Late and a Month Too Soon is an album of 11 old or traditional folk songs presented as is, allowing the songs to take centre stage. The magic is in the performers’ chemistry, as well as the choice of songs, several of which are fairly rare amongst modern performers.
It’s hard to select stand-out tracks. They all have their considerable merits. If you’re after something to showcase the joy of the two singers together, head for the unaccompanied song, ‘The Girl Who was Poorly Clad’, a mournful relative to ‘Young Girl Cut Down in Her Prime’ [Roud 2]. For what it’s worth, the song this reviewer has returned to the most is the rustic, sublime, ‘Nellie O’Bob’s O’t’Crowtrees’, which you can well imagine turning up on a MacKenzie Crook soundtrack. But picking and choosing between these tracks is pointless. They’re all entrancing in their own way, and it’s rare that you can say that about a whole album.
We’re five months into the year and A Year too Late and a Month too Soon is up there with the best releases so far. It may well be a year too late due to the times we’ve lived through, but albums like this can’t come soon enough. More, please.
A Year too Late and a Month too Soon is available from Bryony Griffith and Alice Jones’s website, bryonyandalice.com.