Album review for This Coming Gladness by Josephine Foster released through Bo'Weavil Recordings. Every music paper, zine or blog is talking about folk music at the moment. Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom have become icons while purveyors of quite nice but largely insipid songs like Alela Diane (40 000 copies sold in France alone!), Bat for Lashes or Fleet Foxes are surprisingly selling lots of records. In the meantime, folk minstrel Josephine Foster is releasing her fourth (not counting collaborations like Born Heller or confidential CD-Rs) album without any attention whatsoever.
Two years after A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, an album made of quite special German Lieder's covers was released she's back with This Coming Gladness, its title, and colourful as it is quirky sleeve, possibly hinting that her music is actually becoming joyous.
The first amazing impression is that you might be listening to a very old record. But you soon realise that the sound quality is far too good, giving you every little nuance in vocals as pure and cutting as crystal. What soon dawns upon the listener about her vocals are that while they're sometimes reminiscent of classical singers, occasionally old singers from the first half of the nineteenth century or even the great folk divas of the 1970s, Josephine Foster is a voice all of her own, with the exaggeration and emphasis of feelings you won't find anywhere else yet may make her unlistenable to many.
Her peculiar singing manages to glorify music which seems so simple yet so classical; a few notes of harp and piano help to form composed, calm and timeless melodies. Because this album oozes a timeless quality unlike so many of her peers who look so old-fashioned, it could have been released either twenty years ago or twenty years from now, and would still sound neither old nor modern, just fresh and exciting. It is also obvious that accompanying musicians Alex Nielson, with his discreet drumming, and Victor Herrero's amazing use of reverbs transfigure this album, making it so much better than her (arguably already outstanding) previous works.
Whether it be talking about love ('The Lap of Your Lust') or nature (nearly every song), writing a lullaby ('Lullaby to All') or a melancholy ballad ('All I Wanted Was the Moon'), this record can drive you as much in Heaven as in Hell, as there are many difficult and painful moments to go through before ultimate beauty is achieved.
So, here comes the final assessment. You might find it shocking, but for me, this is the most personal, diverse and original (neither dark-folk or neo-hippy) record of all the (arguably much too many) neo-folk albums of the last ten years. This Coming Gladness is a record you'll re-discover at each new listen. Simply a masterpiece.