Ellen Carey has crafted a strongly unique voice under the Fair Maiden pseudonym by taking familiar genre grafts and draping over them a gossamer sense of sparseness, tempered eloquence and eccentricity. The eight tracks are distilled through Carey's voice, ensuring there is a continual sense of the game shifting under your feet without your knowing. 'India' ebbs and flows like Bedroom Suck alum Ela Stiles with a Warpaint bent. This is thrown by the faux Christian folk battlecry of 'Lord' - this irks me a bit if I'm honest. There is an uneasy undertone that adds to the anguish. Then the country bounce of 'Wait For You' flounces in, and the disorientation continues. While the song is warm, amusing, and spot-on genre wise, it stands at odds with what's come before. And so it continues: the melancholic shuffle and groove of 'Poison'; the excellently stark, elegiac mantra of 'Sad Song'; the bluesy attitude (kept to a hush) of 'Blue Moon'; the Bobby Darin rush of 'Darlin'... Fair Maiden often feels like a patchwork, the disparate niches lacking a common through-line. But if you take 'Lord' out of the equation, there is a strange otherworldly dawn AM station vibe here, a curio of night-time driving through more innocent times. The threads - the brooding grooves of 'India', 'Sad Song' and closer 'Lady Of Fortune' juxtaposed by the nostalgic twitches of 'Wait For You', 'Poison' and 'Darlin'. The sound is fleshed out by some creative collaborators (Steph Crase, Liam Kenny, Joel Carey), but it is Ellen’s mesmeric presence that captivates and ensures such eclecticism remains anchored. An intriguing yet rewarding listen.
Grab Fair Maiden here. It's a little belated, but the album launches in Melbourne next Friday November 21 at Dane Certificate's Magic Theatre, supported by Sarah Chadwick, Totally Mild and Moon Dice.