Lady Maisery features the prodigiously talented trio of Hazel Askew, Hannah James and Rowan Rheingans. Having been involved in various other artistic ventures - all three contributed to The Songs of Separation project, for example - it's meant that six years have passed since the trio released a new studio album for our delight. Our patience has been rewarded with the arrival of the eleven tracks gathered together on Lady Maisery's 'Tender'.
The central feature of the trio is the close harmony singing provided by the three women. Without question, the vocal work is outstanding on 'Tender'. This means that the quality of the songs and their arrangements are paramount in creating a satisfactory whole. The songs that make up this record are either written by the individual members or carefully chosen covers - some of which may surprise you.
Dealing with those covers first, the choice of Lal Waterson's 'Child Among The Weeds' is no surprise with its intriguing lyric being brought out by the unaccompanied vocal performance of the trio. The overtly political '3000 Miles' written by Tracy Chapman is a less obvious choice with an observation of oppression in different forms taken from the perspective of a woman of colour. Least obvious is the cover of Bjork’s ‘Hyperballad’ and its look at ways to cope with the pressures of modern life. Whilst these choices individually may surprise, the overall context is one of dealing with life’s struggles, especially, from a woman’s point of view.
It's in this context that the self-compositions making up the rest of the album can be heard too. Take, for example, the title track written by Rheingans to encourage us to tend to those in need of some love and care.
A similar lyrical standpoint is taken on James' song, 'Echoes', which reflects on the difficulties of watching your nearest and dearest lose touch with the world as dementia takes a hold. Askew provides more uplifting thoughts by looking at nature for inspiration on 'Birdsong' and hope in the form of what technology might achieve on 'Scientist'.
As you'll recognise, the album is reflective in nature and certainly not background listening or meant to encourage you to get up and dance. Themusicis suitably arranged to avoid intrusion on the songs and to gently add a lush background. To do this, the sound is mainly shaped around their close harmony vocals by viola, accordion, harp, harmonium and melodeon. Thanks to producer, Adam Pietrykowski, for his excellent handiwork are due at this point. Lady Maisery may have taken six years to follow up their last studio album, but they’ve worked hard to make sure there’s a satisfying consistency and depth to 'Tender' that shows an increased level of sophistication to their craft.