Elizabeth LaPrelle: Birds’ Advice

This is already the third album by 24 year old American singer Elizabeth LaPrelle from Virginia and it’s surely one of the best new releases of roots music to be found anywhere. LaPrelle says in her notes to the album: “I like to sing the old mountain songs, and I try to sing them in the old style, with the same force and feeling that have held listeners for generations”. She achieves that aim with ease on a variety of traditional songs and ballads, some of them sourced from the likes of the Carter Family, Clarence Ashley, and the recently departed Doc Watson.

LaPrelle has a typically stark, hard-edged voice which sounds very much at home with this material and she gets right inside the songs to tell their tales in a wonderfully authoritative way. The 16 tracks (plus bonus track ‘Istanbul’) are fairly evenly balanced between unaccompanied songs and those with a small group of friends who play banjo, fiddle and guitar. She also enlists the help of her mother Sandy to sing harmonies on some songs.

The album’s highlights include her unaccompanied versions of ‘The Cuckoo’ and the well-known epic ‘Mathey Groves’ while ‘Faded Coat of Blue’ and the two Carter Family songs – ‘The Lover’s Return’ and ‘Will You Miss Me’ –  are also a delight. The entire album is a bit of a rarity as there is no artifice on show and instead the honest music-making and pure enjoyment just shines through. It’s almost a throwback to an earlier age with family and friends getting together to sing songs and play music simply for the hell of it.

Like the late lamented Appalachian singer Hedy West from Georgia, whose re-releases won an award last year, Elizabeth LaPrelle is an accomplished banjo player. On Birds’ Advice, however, she devotes herself to singing and leaves the banjo playing to Amy Davis. While everyone deserves credit for what is very much a joint effort, LaPrelle is a revelation and may soon have every right to be seen in the same light as West and some of the other illustrious predecessors whose songs she interprets on this album.

Birds’ Advice is released on Old 97 Wrecords.


Explore posts in the same categories: Roots Music from Out There

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