Like a perfected diamond pulled from the sandy beaches of small, Southern town, Laura Marling is the 21st century’s answer to folk music fans the world round. She is, on “I Speak Because I Can,” the British, female reincarnation of Johnny Cash, repackaged in a 20-year-old soul. Her often religiously charged, plot-driven commentary is exactly what folk music is founded on. The simplicity of instruments and fierceness of conviction don’t hurt either.
With nothing more than a lone guitar and the insight of a woman wise beyond her years, Marling journeys the murky waters of religion, redemption and righteousness. In her time-tested, raspy annunciation, she fearlessly navigates the back-roads of her complicated mind. “The weak need to be lead,” she proclaims over the robust chords of “Rambling Man.” But you need not be feeble to explore with Marling, and you’ll be better for it in the end.
The first lyric of an album is often a telltale indication of what is to come. In the case of “I Speak Because I Can,” it is a perhaps unintentional narration of the British songstress’ place in the music industry. “I might be apart of this, ripple on water from a lonesome drip.”
Seldom does an artist come along who possesses as commanding a presence as Marling. With this 11-song composition, she finds herself among a handful of artists who still rightfully value storytelling in songwriting.
The follow up to 2007’s “Alas I Cannot Swim” is her magnum opus. She shows considerable growth as an artist. She’s left behind the love songs, often characteristic of preoccupied adolescence. There is no naiveté here.
On “Devil’s Spoke” she commands you to “hold your devil by his spoke and spin him to the ground.” On “Hope in the Air,” she begs “pick up your rope Lord, sling to me/If we are to battle, I must not be weak.” The album from start to finish chronicles the all-too-common difficulties to understand creation, apocalypse and everything in between, with unequaled honesty. It is a lesson in artistry, storytelling and hardships of an insightful life. It is a lesson to us all.
Download (don’t steal): “Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)” by Laura Marling
For fans of: Alison Krauss, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan