The press release accompanying ‘Gabriel’s Wharf’, the debut EP from nineteen year old Londoner Lucy Cait, makes much of the fact that the singer “never listens to Dylan”, and hadn’t heard of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ until after this EP was put to bed. If nothing else, it feels like a pre-emptive strike against those who would say otherwise. Instead we are told her musical upbringing was informed by Kanye, John Legend, Warpaint and a chap by the name of Johnny Flynn. This is folk, folks, but not as we know it. Well, so we are led to believe.
It’s folk alright, not with the left-of-centre twist all this bluster would have you expect, but with enough flashes of inspiration to make it an interesting prospect. ‘Gabriel’s Wharf’ opens with the sounds of the underground – the London Underground – beginning a brief journey that could span a jaunt on this north London tube route, where stations are glimpsed and commuters overheard. The title track showcases Cait’s deep, warm vocal, one that begs comparison to Florence at certain junctures along the way. On what is fundamentally a sparse folk song in a traditional sense, Cait lays down a dark and atmospheric ambience with the instrumentation and sound effects. This paradoxical motif of organic and mechanical sound raises its head time and again over the course of the EP.
She finger picks on Walk Away as the bass drum punches a walking beat, and again on Ivy with its bold declarations of love – “Lions prowl my door again/ But I’ll tame them just for you”. Horn solos add a bit of gravitas, as do the choir-like vocals. Brother is made of more of the same, with melancholy couplets – “Bluebells they sleep while willows they weep/ Then fall piece to piece”- addressing family members, whereas Say Aye is a more contrastingly upfront affair. The affirmation is in the title of this Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros inflected, call & response foot-stamper. “Time will stand still so let’s seek some thrills/ And say aye”. With this we alight at Kings Cross, and re-emerge into the city, where the clouds have lifted. ‘Gabriel’s Wharf’ isn’t wildly original when all is said and done, but the distinctive quality of Cait’s voice and the creative pastoral/urban dichotomy she conjures up over the course of the EP certainly go some way towards a fresh approach.