The beauty of ‘Wolves! Cried the Maid’, the new album by Oxlip, is that it’s impossible to pin down. It doesn’t neatly fall under any genre or banner. There is no neat pigeon-hole. That is precisely what, in essence, makes it an artistic masterpiece.
Oxlip is Jayne Trimble, a singer-songwriter originally from Coney Island in Northern Ireland, collaborating with a carefully selected group of Canadian musicians. The result is incredible.
Trimble’s songwriting skills are utterly unique. In a world of twenty-first-century clutter and clatter, her talent transcends the trivial and the mundane to gift the world the most enigmatic, curious songs that are steeped in the storytelling tradition of folk music.
Yet there’s a mystical, slightly psychedelic twist. There is a sense of drama. A sense of the unknown – the other world between light and dark to which we don’t belong. Trimble’s ethereal, angelic voice is capable of transporting the listener to some other realm.
The musicianship is exceptional. On this album, it’s as if the instruments are enchanted, like they are characters in the song, in particular, that haunting Hammond organ.
‘Wolves! Cried the Maid’ has a Celtic twilight, mystical vibe; a fairy tale quality, heavenly vocals yet despite that purity, something deeper lies beneath. Like all good fairy tales, there’s a darkness lurking.
It starts with rain. That comforting sound of a downpour. Then Jayne Trimble’s voice takes over and immediately you are taken to another place, a strange ‘Garden of Roses’. The opening track has an old-fashioned fairytale vibe. A narrative of dramatic twists and turns. Turbulent yet rhythmic, this beautiful but strange song ends with that sweet sound of rain. You could say, it turns full circle.
Continuing the mystical theme, ‘Two Lovely Swans’ brings to mind the ancient Irish myth of The Children of Lir, turned into swans by their wicked stepmother.
There are two lovely swans on a misty lake.
A melodic introduction leads to a memorable chorus. The swans represent the purity of divine love yet tied to this earth where to err is human. With its Celtic air, tin whistle and bodhran beat coupled with heavenly harmonies, we are left in no doubt as to what direction Oxlip is taking us; into another world where myths, legends and storytelling reigns. Into a Celtic dreamlike land of the Tuatha De Danann.
‘This Dark Hour’ is about escapism when the burden of reality becomes too much and there are no answers to the incessant questions. ‘Children of Zion’, an old spiritual song from the Rev Gary Davis is resurrected by Oxlip but not as you know it.
Demonstrating the power and vocal range of Jayne Trimble, it is transformed into an achingly beautiful lament, barely reminiscent of the original blues version, yet with all of the zeal, passion, and verve.
Skillfully following ‘Children of Zion’ comes ‘Dust’. It describes a post-apocalyptic scenario whereby America “from Oklahoma to the Texan plains” is covered in dust. Detailed and dramatic lyrics leave the listener in no doubt that this song is about the fall-out from an unthinkable disaster. It demonstrates the range of Trimble’s songwriting ability, from folklore and fairy tales to political commentary, which so potently and poetically leaves the listener in no doubt what it’s all about. The chorus drives the message home.
Dust to eat and dust to drink. Dust in your hair and dust in your teeth.
A stark reminder that dust we are and into dust, we return.
‘Lark in the Morning is an old Irish traditional air given a haunting introduction and dramatic treatment. It’s ‘Lark in the Morning’ like you’ve never heard it before just like ‘Children of Zion’ is given the unique Oxlip treatment.
‘Outshine the Devil’; tormented, tortured, and alone. Here, the Hammond organ takes on a life of its own. With a 60s psychedelic twist, it finishes with an unusual sound effect. It’s another example of how Oxlip’s composition is multi-layered and profound. This album requires repeated and mindful attention if you really want to get it.
‘Prophet From St. Paul’ provides an autobiographical glimpse.
I come from the country. It’s quiet and green. Women are free and mean what they mean.
The stories and the people that shape us and make us who we are, the roots of religion that often lays the foundation for future, personal, spiritual exploration. Another beautiful song. Another where women are strong.
Intriguing, enigmatic, poetic, spiritual, magical, intelligent, enchanting; Oxlip’s ‘Wolves! Cried the Maid’ is both cerebrally charming and challenging, an album with a high IQ. Listen very carefully Let Jayne Trimble’s voice ignite the imagination.
Released on 15th June 2018, ‘Wolves! Cried the Maid’ is available from Oxlip.