“Laura Marling is a 21-year-old British singer/songwriter who is not only wiser than her years – she’s wiser than MY years…If you are old enough, you will hear echoes of Joni Mitchell, Sandy Denny and Leonard Cohen. If you are young, you will hear the voice of a new generation coming into its own,” CBS Sunday Morning’s Bill Flanagan
Go on, confess. I will if you do. Who else watched HRH Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebration on CNN in all its kitschy splendor? So the Brits are not all pip pip and stiff upper lip after all. Sometimes they wear their hearts on their sleeves. Sometimes something truly beautiful grows out of the fog and the wet. Sometimes, England produces a proverbial rose.
Meet Laura Marling, guaranteed to blow minds and break hearts when she performs at the 39th annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival #39, opening day, Thursday, June 21, 5:15 – 6:30 p.m. Passless? Hear her later that same day at NightGrass, The Palm, 11 p.m.
I spent an afternoon with Marling, digitally speaking, her lustrous, dusky voice and acoustic guitar mesmerizing me as I watched countless You Tubes of the artist in performance. Brian Eyster, marketing director of Planet Bluegrass, is an unabashed fan too. He was the one who turned me on to Gen Y’s Joni Mitchell, brave and pioneering like her predecessor and equally unafraid of taking artistic risks.
“A major star in the UK and Europe, with three brilliant (acclaimed and award-winning) solo albums, and just 22 years old. Members of Mumford & Sons were her backing band a few years ago. The woman is really is fantastic and is single-handedly inspiring a young generation of women folksingers in England. Most critics I know (myself included) expect her to reach Mumford-level fame in the U.S. If you haven’t heard her music yet, you’ll love her.”
The Times of London tripped over its superlative trying to take the measure of the ethereal blond troubadour:
“Who else is making music as ambitious, as haunting, as centuries-straddling, as thought-provoking and artistically tenacious as this? And the answer is: nobody. No, really. Not a soul.”
Of late, England has produced some impressively sophisticated young pop artists like Adele, James Blake and the XX, but the folk-oriented Marling (she also plays bluesy rock) remains in a class of her own.
Marling, who started out – briefly but auspiciously – with a stint in the group Noah and the Whale, was a callow 16 when she independently released her first singles and almost immediately gained serious stature as a key figure on Britain’s burgeoning young folk scene, alongside such artists and friends as singer-actor Johnny Flynn and Mumford & Sons.
Marling’s debut album Alas, I Cannot Swim (2008), was written and recorded when she was just 17 years old. Alas… was nominated for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize in the UK, an award given annually for the best album from a British or Irish artist.
The artist’s sophomore release, I Speak Because I Can (2010), is a striking collection of literary and emotional homespun tales delivered in swirls of melody. The album’s release brought Marling further critical acclaim including another Mercury Music Prize nomination. In 2011 she won the NME Award’s “Best Solo Artist” statuette as well as the hotly contended Brit Award for “Best British Female”.
Laura Marling’s third album, A Creature I Don’t Know, (2011), recorded with producer Ethan Johns, features 10 impeccably crafted songs about love and loss and the roles women play. The release showcases the singer-songwriter’s lustrous voice, evocative lyrics, and precise musicianship, further punctuating her extraordinary talent both as a songwriter and performer.
Blond, yes. Clueless. Hardly. Marling, in fact, appears to be a a bit of a geek and proud of it. She does crossword puzzles and reads obsessively, mining literature for song ideas. (The song “Salinas” from A Creature I Don’t Know was inspired by a short biography written by author John Steinbeck’s wife.) Marling is fluent in mythology. Just ask her about the German water nymph Ondine or Sophia, goddess of wisdom.
Literature, mythology, love, betrayal, anger, family, all triggers for songs, vivid, visionary and mysterious, that appear to emerge from Marling like Athena from the head Zeus (while we are on the subject of mythology): fully formed.
Laura Marling. You will want to say you heard her back when…
To learn more, check out her performance of “Sophia” on You Tube.