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LAURA MARLING – A Creature I Don’t Know (Virgin)

For her third album Laura Marling has veered away from the folkiness of her first and the confessional singer/songwriter of her second to deliver a collection of songs that will cement her position as the best song-writer of her generation. ‘The Muse’ starts things off with a jazzy nod to Joni Mitchell’s ‘Mingus’ , with the song twisting and turning through the verses before we get a jazz banjo (!) solo. ‘ I Was Just A Card’ utilises her band, along with some delicate strings, to produce a captivating song about a disintegrating relationship, and once again I can hear the influence of Joni Mitchell, this time in the soaring vocals. ‘Don’t Ask Me Why’ is another of her songs which is so easy on the ear that you almost feel like you know it already, and the subtle strings make this sound almost like it is just Marling and her guitar singing just for you. It segues seamlessly into ‘Salinas’, which is a full band effort – and they certainly help pack a punch to this emotional and heartfelt song. ‘The Beast’ is one of her lyrically chilling pieces, using stark imagery to catalogue the death of a relationship, and made even more so by the way that it starts off with just Marling and her guitar, and slowly builds up to an urgent crescendo. As if to emphasise power of that song, ‘Night After Night’ is just vocal and guitar, but is no less great for being that, and is the first song that harks back to her superb debut of just three short years ago. Continuing with the minimalist approach is ‘My Friends’, a sprightlier tune with a more overtly folky backing than we have heard so far, while ‘Rest In The Bed’ was being played while touring her last album, so I feel as if I know it intimately already, and it sounds just as good in a studio setting. ‘Sophia’ is something of a respite after the dark themes of some of the preceding tracks, and is an upbeat folk-rock gem, with great backing by the band and a joyous vocal from Marling. ‘All My Rage’ closes the album with another superb folk-inspired song, all strummed guitar, furious banjo and massed vocals. It is hard to believe that Marling is only 21, and has already delivered a body of work that would be the envy of someone twice her age. From what we have heard so far I can see a long and rewarding – both for her and for us – career ahead of her.