Offa Rex – The Queen Of Hearts (2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/88,2kHz | Time – 48:41 minutes | 962 MB | Genre: Folk
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: HDTracks | Booklet, Front Cover | © Nonesuch
“The Queen of Hearts” is the debut album from Offa Rex, an adventurous project featuring English singer/multi-instrumentalist Olivia Chaney and The Decemberists. Produced and recorded by Tucker Martine (Modest Mouse, My Morning Jacket, Neko Case) and Colin Meloy at Martine’s studio in Portland, OR, the album draws largely on traditional English-Irish-Scottish repertoire to create a transatlantic musical conversation that flirts with psychedelia and folk rock while maintaining its own inimitable identity.
Confessed Anglophile Colin Meloy’s affinity for U.K. folk music finally comes full circle on The Queen of Hearts, a meticulously crafted collaboration between the Decemberists and English folk artist Olivia Chaney. Comprising strictly traditional fare, the songs that make up Offa Rex’s debut will be familiar to fans of the style, as many of their definitive versions have arrived via genre heavyweights like Anne Briggs, Martin Carthy, Shirley Collins, Ewan MacColl, Fairport Convention, and Steeleye Span. The latter two acts figure most prominently on the 11-track set, with the supremely talented Chaney channeling Sandy Denny and Maddy Prior, delivering pitch-perfect takes on seasoned tales both bucolic and brooding. Meloy and company also adopt the Span/Convention template, fleshing things out with spindly electric guitars, fiddle, and lumbering drums – the group’s take on “Blackleg Miner” hews so closely to the 1970 Steeleye version that it almost verges on karaoke. The secret weapon here is Chaney, whose excellent 2015 debut, Longest River, rightly evoked comparisons to Joni Mitchell and June Tabor. Her command impresses throughout, especially on some of the more pastoral numbers like “Old Churchyard,” “Willie o’ Winsbury,” and the knotty Dreamboat Annie-era Heart-inspired title cut, and her presence helps to even out some of the album’s more distended offerings, like the doomy psych-rock outlier “Sheepcrook and Black Dog.” All nitpicking aside, Queen of Hearts is as committed a piece of retro-leaning English folk-rock as one could hope for – there’s even some Morris dance music. Meloy and Chaney’s genuine love for the source material is apparent throughout, and while it may not bring anything too new to the table, it still makes for a delicious spread.
01 – The Queen of Hearts
02 – Blackleg Miner
03 – The Gardener
04 – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
05 – Flash Company
06 – The Old Churchyard
07 – Constant Billy (Oddington) / I’ll Go Enlist (Sherborne)
08 – Willie o’ Winsbury
09 – Bonny May
10 – Sheepcrook and Black Dog
11 – To Make You Stay
Produced by Tucker Martine and Colin Meloy.
Recorded and Mixed in September-October 2016 by Tucker Martine at Flora Recording & Playback, Portland, OR.
Mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering Studios, Portland, ME.
Olivia Chaney – vocals, electric harpsichord, arrangements
Colin Meloy – electric guitar
Chris Funk – electric guitar
Nate Query – electric bass
Jenny Conlee – Hammond organ
John Moen – drums, gong