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Hungrytown are long-time married couple Rebecca Hall and Ken Anderson; they've both been involved in music-making for a long time and have made the long step from, respectively, torch songs and rock music to make folk music of astonishing delicacy and purity. In the process of making this long step they relocated from New York City to rural Vermont, and I guess that has helped them in the process of making their distinctive music.
It is Rebecca Hall's voice and her songwriting that make Hungrytown what they are. She sings gently and with a pure tone that reminds me a little of mid-60s folk/pop sounds; it's the very antithesis of rock music and its attitudes. Clearly, somebody who once sang torch songs could probably sing any-which way she wanted and so has made a very positive choice to go for this style. Ken Anderson is responsible for the arrangements that fit around her voice and contributes some seamless harmony vocals as well as any instrument required other than Rebecca's acoustic guitar - instruments that appear so unobtrusively you barely notice what is being played a lot of the time. If Rebecca is the nightingale, singing with a voice of captivating beauty, then Ken's arrangements are a lacework of branches, a frame of natural beauty in itself.
Rebecca's songs are a quite remarkable re-working of several centuries of folk tradition. She's certainly immersed herself completely into the whole business of how these songs are put together. Once or twice I had to check, and then check again, that this wasn't a traditional song I was hearing. In fact, there's an awful lot about this album that sounds more English than American - apart from the song The Sweetest Flower, which owes an awful lot to Robert Burns - and I suspect this English tone comes from reaching so far back into the American tradition that the two streams are rejoined. Her subject matter is often contemporary, about relationships or about living in a tumbledown old house, but the delivery takes you back to a quieter age, without the rush and noise and intense busy-ness of our modern lives.
Contemporary American folk music is full of people trying to evoke times gone by and there seem to be almost as many ways of doing this as there are old-timey acts. Hungrytown have a distinctive slant on this whole idea and I think the quiet beauty of their music almost sounds like a prayer for calm in a febrile world.
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