sun 14/07/2024

Album: Lucy Farrell - We Are Only Sound | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Lucy Farrell - We Are Only Sound

Album: Lucy Farrell - We Are Only Sound

The acclaimed folk artist makes her solo debut with an exquisite break-up album

'A companion for life'

Lucy Farrell has a singular voice, contained and controlled but subtle and expressive. Since graduating from Newcastle’s folk course in the noughties she’s performed and recorded as a duo with Jonny Kearney, as one quarter of the BBC Folk Award-winning Furrow Collective, alongside further musical adventures with Carthy, Oates, Farrell & Young, and Eliza Carthy’s Wayward Band.

Now she is releasing her long-awaited solo album of original songs, recorded at Wenlock Abbey in Much Wenlock, home to actress Gabrielle Drake, sister of Nick. It was his piano and guitar that were used in these recordings, which also feature an A-list of British folk musicians, including Kris Drever on guitar and harmony vocals, double bassist Ben Nicholls, MG Boulter on lap steel and album producer Andy Bell adding subtle electronics and percussion.

There’s an attractive and intimate feel to these performances, the musicians recorded together in one room, in one take, creating a sympathetic resonance chamber for Farrell’s exquisite songs of love, break-up, longing, departure and resolution. The opening “Paperthin” is a leave-taking, sharp and tender, as much self-interrogation as confessional; in its lyrics, and the songs that follow, you sense the unbalancing weights of a relationship slipping away. That sense of dislocation is evoked musically with minimalist band backing and shimmery electronics. A similarly haunted set of synths carries over into “Snows Blowing Wild”, while the painful tenderness of “Keep On” is powered by Farrell’s stark viola, her double-tracked voice evoking a keening sense of quietude, melancholy, resolution.

Kris Drever’s electric guitar work is spare and atmospheric and a perfect partner for Farrell’s vocals, especially on the mournful “Suddenly (Woken by Alarms)”, while the self-revealing “Never Enough” has a strong chorus and striking lines to mull over, deft incisions into the self and the dynamics of relationship: “I weigh down your easy walk / I hold up the line / But sometimes when we need to talk / I bite your tongue and you hold mine.”

But it’s the last three songs that really stand out – “Sacrifice”, “Safe in the Open” and the title track – each of them powerfully searching and revealing poem-songs of self-examination and self-determination, of ambivalence, love and parting.

With its striking imagery, “Sacrifice” is a chiller of a song, powerfully sung and with a sense of revelation embedded deep within it, while “Safe in the Open” has a spiky guitar figure that’s a cross between blues and nursery rhyme, softened on the rousing chorus by Boulter’s lap steel, and a powerful lyric that’s a cathartic and probing evocation of connection and aloneness. Title track “We Are Only Sound”, with Farrell accompanied by Thomas Lenthall at Nick Drake’s piano in Much Wenlock, morphs into a revolving mantra, the lyrics reflecting with cool detachment on truth and deception, emotional hunger and unquenched need in lines and imagery that, here and across the album, unpack into complex, articulate, affecting and ambivalent songs of break-up that will stay with you in a way that lovers often don’t. In short, it’s a keeper, like all the very best break-up albums are. With Farrell’s brilliant solo debut, you’ve got a companion for life.


These are complex, articulate, affecting and ambivalent songs of break-up that will stay with you in a way that lovers often don’t


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters