On Shelter British singer Olivia Chaney retains the intimacy of British folk while escaping its confines | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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On Shelter British singer Olivia Chaney retains the intimacy of British folk while escaping its confines

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British singer Olivia Chaney emerged on the British folk scene nearly a decade ago, harmonizing behind Scotsman Alasdair Roberts and writing her own music. Over time her repertoire and ideas have broadened; on her 2015 debut album, The Longest River (Nonesuch), she placed gems by Chilean nueva canción pioneer Violeta Parra, baroque composer Henry Purcell, and Swedish jazz-folk artist Sidsel Endresen alongside original tunes that drew their elegant spirit from her homeland’s rich folk tradition. Through the course of them all she used her gorgeously precise, meticulously etched voice to trace ravishing melodies with stunning clarity. Since then she’s also worked with the Decemberists under the name Offa Rex, forging a folk-rock sound far more indebted to Steeleye Span than Anne Briggs, and on her new album, Shelter, she drifts even further from traditionalism. And she wrote every song, apart from a riveting version of Purcell’s “O Solitude” that glides upon the astringent long tones of her longtime instrumental foil and violinist, Jordan Hunt. There’s no missing her folk roots in the keening lyricism of “Long Time Gone,” a song written by Frank Harford and Tex Ritter, and originally recorded by the Everly Brothers; Hunt adds biting violin stabs and tender countermelodies throughout the track. Though most of the material uses phrasing and melodies that sound like thoroughly contemporary singer-songwriter fare, her delivery maintains stunning restraint and an impressive control of expression. Shelter was produced by Thomas Bartlett, who plays spare keyboard parts on most of the songs, giving the music an aerated polish that heightens the prettiness of Chaney’s voice but keeps the proceedings decidedly small and hushed.   v

written by Frank Harford and Tex Ritter, and first recorded by the Everly Brothers.written by Frank Harford and Tex Ritter, and first recorded by the Everly Brothers

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