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Vashti Bunyan - Lookaftering




One day in 1997, when 16-year-olds were already planning their Russian brides over the internet, a 52-year-old self-renounced songstress, Vashti Bunyan, hobbled across a keyboard and amidst a playing field of perversion found herself googling the sanest of words:

  
  

V-a-s-h-t-i B-u-n-y-a-nā€¦

  
  

Now in 2005 this mysterious lady has glided like Gumby, flares and all, straight from the pages of a story book. A historic vestige of hippiedom, bolstered by contemporary names such as Devendra Bahart, Joanna Newsom, Kevin Barker (Espers) and Adam Pierce (Mice Brigade). At finding lost acclaim for her 1970 debut, Just Another Diamond Day, Vashti has revised perspective and finally released Lookaftering.

  
  

Life holds a few stories when you drop out of art school in the Sixties, buy a gypsy wagon, and ride towards the Isle of Skye - to the shortly failed, idealistic hippy colony founded by acid-folkster Donovan.

  
  

On similarly light feet the new album commences. Lately opens with it's sardonic title, pairing a gentle Sunday morning guitar pattern with warm lyrical didacticism. A sense of motherly instruction is heard in the lines that "the only things that you should keep in rows/are your perfect teeth ā€“ and the rest you know". Such mature concerns have been instilled as a result of raising the Bunyan family ā€“ an undertaking clearly derailed from convention. The lucid lyrics of Wayward and If I were parade Vashti's defiance of household complacency, staying preachy-ness with delicate accompaniments from Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom respectively. On Same but Different the recorder and piano prompt a refreshingly sombre tone for an album that hazards at times being too darn cute and easy for some listeners. However, even a superficial understanding of Vashti's life helps to personalise the world-wisened and resigned portrait that is so succinctly sketched on tracks like Feet of Clay. Understanding the differences in love and family may be a virtue and sometimes a foreign type of complacency, but it's not one harmful in being pledged.

  
  

Lookaftering is an album of songs woven together like patches on a family quilt. With a voice akin to Joni Mitchell/Joan Baez, every syllable is stitched with quaint but augmented instrumentation, creating an ambience that likens to the less bluesy side of Pentangle. In this ungrounded day and age, Vashti Bunyan owns a life of so much organic character that she earned the title ā€˜folk legend' thirty years before she had heard of herself. With timing ripe she has released an album so devoid of pretense that Wayward Hum was even recorded unawares. From the earthy folk-art cover we expect at least a sackful of pastoral tradition, and in the keenest sense this is delivered. Aside from being fittingly decorated by Vashti's daughter, Whyn Lewis, Lookaftering sounds like a quirky girl has renounced the choir and started meandering barefoot in fields.

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