Jackie Oates: The Joy of Living review – an intensely personal folk gem

(ECC Records)

Folk songs are often about desperately sad ancient stories, but occasionally they are about newer experiences. In January 2016, Jackie Oates had her first baby, Rosie, amid complications: both mother and child contracted sepsis in hospital. Simultaneously, Oates’ beloved father, a man who steeped his family in folk music culture, became suddenly ill, and died of the same condition five days later. Jackie and Rosie got better. Few album titles have had such immediate resonance.

Since her 2003-2007 part-time tenure in Rachel Unthank & the Winterset, Jackie Oates has been well-known in traditional folk circles, but has never quite had the acclaim she deserves. Her voice recalls many contemporary female folk voices: sweet, pretty, unadorned, the kind of vocal that could disappear on the breeze. What she sings about, however, gives it gravity.

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