Thea Gilmore released ‘Small World Turning’ on May 17 – her first new collection of songs since 2017’s ‘The Counterweight’ which was her 3rd successive top 40 album. ‘Small World Turning’ takes a sharp musical turning of its own, many may argue a new commitment to what Thea Gilmore does best, as it’s an album with an unashamed folk flavour.
An artist of enduring international acclaim (Bruce Springsteenregularly names her as a favourite) and a justly revered lyricist, Gilmore’s musical settings have taken many ingenious detours in recent years. ‘Murphy’s Heart’ (2010) arrived with a buffed-up radio sheen, 2013’s ‘Regardless’ was luscious chamber pop and ‘The Counterweight’ brought electronica flavourings to the table.
‘Small World Turning’ nails its colours to a very different wall from the get-go. Acoustic guitars are back to the fore, and a quintessentially rootsy array of instruments frame them – fiddles, whistles, mandolins, tenor banjos are all in abundance. Given the reverence in which Gilmore is held among contemporaries it will be no surprise that UK folk royalty including Cara Dillon, Seth Lakeman, Sam Lakeman, Katriona Gilmore, Jamie Robertsand BBC Radio 2’s Young Folk Award winner 2013 Ciaran Algarall step up to contribute. Moreover the engine room of the record – which contains no traditional kit drums – is a stellar and diverse Transatlantic rhythm section of Matt Owens (Noah And The Whale) and Michael Blair (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello).
But ‘Small World Turning’ is no hollow parade of the famous.
As is ever the case with Thea Gilmore, it’s the songs that define and dazzle, and the 11 new compositions on display are a blend of melodic lilt and dark brooding choruses, with lyrics that repeatedly hold up a magnifying glass to 2019 England and impale greed, bigotry, class divide and hoarded wealth.
A gifted and exceptional artist at the peak of her powers, Thea Gilmore has delivered a vibrant and deeply resonant album, rooted in folk music but completely transcending any genre related limitations. In a tempestuous and changing social environment now is a time to state your allegiance. As Thea and Cara Dillon sing over ‘Grandam Gold’s’ closing bars “Accept what is simple or defend what is right”.