If the music of twenty three year old Nancy Elizabeth whips up ice-cold images of isolation in wide open, wind swept terrain, it is certainly for good reason. The Lancashire-born singer captured her ambitious take on folk music’s age-old traditions while surrounded by a sea of countryside. Recorded in both a remote 17th Century white stone cottage in Wales and a village hall outside Manchester, it’s just the kind of intimate setting one would expect to stumble upon a band of clandestine musicians working away on dulcimer, glockenspiel, guitar, harp, mandolin and a variety of other instruments that read like another language all together (bouzouki, khim, etc). The result is Elizabeth’s debut long player, Battle and Victory (The Leaf Label); a unique batch of mystic song fare that calls to mind the very best aspects of Nina Nastasia, Joanna Newsome, and Vashti Bunyon.
Inhabiting a place generally only reserved for cinematic period pieces and the human imagination, Battle and Victory rarely sounds like the work of the here and now. Guided by the Gaelic gallops of pulsing dulcimer, trimmings of woodwind, and the heartbeat pulse of intonating field drums, “I Used To Be” pulls from a kind of epic, medieval origin not entirely easy to place. Likewise for “Coriander” – a song that waltzes about like elegant figurines pirouetting around the dial of a music box. Then there are the tracks which rely on broadening layers of precise dynamics that rise and fall for the dramatic moment, rather than pay precious mind to verse, chorus, and bridge compositions. Look to “I’m Like Paper” and “Lung” for the best examples of these. In the end, perhaps the only thing that ultimately sounds of the present day is Elizabeth’s voice…a breathy combination of The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan and Dido. Yet, even this contemporary twist eventually glides away on plumes of the accomplished singer’s bewitching melodies.
Regardless of time and place, Battle and Victory is certainly a unique and engaging listen…one that allows the listener to get lost within it’s rich and full bodied confines throughout the course of its’ 44 minutes. If absorbed to its’ fullest capacity, Nancy Elizabeth may just have her listeners convinced she is carefully plucking away on their emotional heart strings, rather than a 22-string Celtic harp. – David Pitz