(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – It’s a terrible cliche to compare guitar-strumming female singer-songwriters to Joni Mitchell, who sort of broke the mold of the genre about 40-odd years ago, but there’s no two ways about it — innovative UK folk-pop singer-songwriter Laura Marling recalls Mitchell, not only because she sounds like her, but because she shows promise of being just that good. Like Mitchell, Marling knows her way around the guitar beyond the basic four folk chords; her melodies swoop and soar in unexpected direction as does her wide-ranging voice with a natural vibrato; she’s deft with open tunings and jazz chords; and she writes phrases that are seemingly impossible to fit into pop verses, but somehow pulls it off. Marling stops at MASS MoCA on Friday, October 26, 2012, as part of her Working Holiday Solo tour.
During Laura Marling’s first British tour five years ago, she and her band were turned away from the gig because at only 17 she was too young to gain admittance to the nightclub. The enterprising musicians set up shop on the street outside the club and played to an enthusiastic crowd on the sidewalk in London’s Soho. NPR says of Marling, “With a sound characterized by graceful, refined lyricism and remarkable melodies, she’s attracted widespread praise.”
Known for a silvery, strong voice, and a clear-eyed comprehension of the world, Marling trailblazed a folk revival among the UK’s young and fashionable – she comes out of the same scene that produced Mumford & Sons, and has been linked romantically with Marcus Mumford — and was named “best British female solo artist” at age 21. While some of her songs lay bare her fantasies about a normal way of life that she missed by hitting the road at such a young age, and her insecurities about having left school before she finished, she sums up her performing philosophy, saying, “I just think of everything I do and how happy it will make me to do it.”
NPR, which recently broadcast Marling’s Tiny Desk Concert, calls her recent album A Creature I Don’t Know “mesmerizing,” and it was “hauntingly mystifying and warmly welcoming” and “both difficult and gratifying to interpret.” According to The Guardian (UK), Marling’s gigs are “part chucklesome, part magical.” The paper calls her “tantalizingly inscrutable” and speculates that the title of A Creature I Don’t Know refers to the singer herself. “Despite her role as the handmaiden of the recent British folk-pop revival, Marling has never bared all in the role of a confessional singer-songwriter. Rather, she has cleaved closer to the Bob Dylan ‘keep ‘em guessing’ axis, while vocally channeling the high priestess of acoustic ice, Joni Mitchell.”
Marling began playing the guitar at age five, learning the blues from her father, and has been enthralled by the songs and lyrics of the likes of Neil Young, Bob Dylan, James Taylor, and John Mayall ever since, but also harbors a rather deep love for alt country star Ryan Adams. She joined the “new-folk” movement at age 16 and soon became a part of Noah and the Whale and collaborated with acts such as Mystery Jets and The Moldy Peaches. She released her solo debut Alas I Cannot Swim in 2008, and was promptly nominated for the Mercury Prize. I Speak Because I Can followed in 2010.
Laura Marling takes the stage on Friday, October 26, at 8 pm. Tickets are $16 in advance, $19 on the day of the show. MASS MoCA members receive a 10% discount. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office, located off Marshall Street in North Adams, from 11 AM until 5 PM (closed Tuesdays). Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during Box Office hours or purchased online at MASS MoCA .