Opening with a raspy, Marianne Faithful vocal on ?Under The Leaves,? the fifth album from this Cardiff-based chanteuse (a former radio journalist and 2001 Welsh Music Award nominee for Best Female Solo Artist ? she ultimately lost to another Charlotte from Cardiff) is a haunting collection of mostly ?trad. arr.?s that Ms. Greig has embellished and/or reworded during concert performances over the last few years, many of which center around pregnancy and childbirth. Along with collaborator Julian Hayman (ex-Discount Chiefs) on guitar, mandolin, and banjo, Greig?s mourning harmonium strains imbue these ambient medieval ballads with a serenity and peaceful countenance occasionally at odds with the lyrical content, as on the (original) murder ballad ?Bury Me Here.? Fans of Timothy Renner?s Spectral Light & Moonshine Firefly Snakeoil Jamboree and, most assuredly Martyn Bates? recent solo sojourns should definitely lend an ear.
Greig?s lilting, wailing double-tracked vocals on ?Bury Me Here? (a track re-recorded from her debut album, ?Night Visiting Songs?) add an hallucinatory air, and the bells provide a religious vibe to the proceedings, as anyone who has attended a Christian funeral service/mass can attest. ?I Wish, I Wish? seems to be a mother?s anguished plea over her stillborn child, as evidenced by the lyrical couplet ?I wish, I wish my babe was born/And smiling on her father?s knee/Instead of dead and gone?.? Beginning with the hope implied in the title, Greig opens the song with a short, lightweight melodica solo, which adds a joyful ambience to the start of the track until, as the tale progresses and we realize the child has died, the joy turns to extreme sorrow and the joyful melodica has been replaced with the mournful harmonium. ?On A Virgin Plain,? along with ?Bury Me Here? the only Greig/Hayman original, continues the somber mood with a tale of lost love, borrowing several lines from the traditional ballads, ?Pretty Polly? and ?Molly Bawn.?
Like the recent Donovan?s Brain release, ?A Defeat of Echoes,? ?Quite Silent? is presented in an LP format, divided into Side One and Side Two with a brief ?Interlude? in the form of Hayman?s field recording (and John Cage tribute), ?The Garden at Dawn,? which is exactly that: a recording of his garden in Newport as day breaks at 4:33am to the sounds of chirping birds and gentle rainfall. It?s a marvelous sonic sorbet that relieves the morbid tension of Side One?s painful tales of death and loss.
Greig?s voice has never sounded clearer or more hopeful than on Side Two?s opener, ?The Generous Lover,? which I would select as the opening single to attract an audience to the album. With hints of Shirley Collins (Greig says of ?Go From My Window,? ?I half-remembered Shirley Collins? version of this traditional song and made up the rest?), Sandy Denny and newcomer Sharron Kraus and a laudable cover of Bert Jansch?s ?Rosemary Lane,? Greig has covered all the traditional British folk bases and the album will appeal to both ?trad? and ?neo-trad? fans. With a little more eight months gone by, this is my favorite traditional folk album of the year and one that will surely grace my year end Top Ten list. 10/10 -- Jeff Penczak (5 September, 2005)