Twenty years ago this collection of songs from Olivia Chaney would have been described as a “Come Down album”. Something you’d put on after a long night. A real Sunday morning album.
Many years before it would have been described as a “quintessentially English folk album”.
In 2018 when all genres and barriers are seemingly merging into one this album entitled Shelter can simply be described as beautiful.
Running at 44 minutes and encompassing ten songs the classically-trained Chaney’s precise vocals above the minimalist playing make this one of the albums of the year. Evoking shades of Sandy Denny, Joni Mitchell and strains of Kate Bush – in her quieter moments Shelter is an accomplished piece of work.
Starting with the title song the album is settles on a comfortable bed of tender piano, guitar and strings that allows Chaney’s vocals – one moment soaring the next a gentle whisper – to tell the tales.
Of the ten songs eight are originals and deal mainly with love, reflection and remembrance. Arches a paean for love is one of the standouts, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn sends shivers down this old man’s spine while Roman Holiday is just plain bloody gorgeous. The two covers are the 1940s Tex Ritter cowboy song Long Time Gone and a reworking of Henry Purcell’s O Solitude. The latter being the one track on the album that doesn’t quite work for me – but that maybe my own preference for folk over baroque.
That said this gentle elegant album is a pure unexpected joy.