The spirit of Sandy Denny lives on in the music of England's Smoke Fairies. They are as ethereal as their name implies, and every bit as elusive. Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies have known each other since childhood, and their indelible harmonies reflect this lifelong affiliation. The pair have already picked up some major endorsements in their brief recording career, including a single released on Jack White's Third Man record label.
Ghosts is a collection of singles and such that were previously issued only in the U.K. The nine songs that make up Ghosts are very much in the style of the original Fairport Convention, Pentangle, and Renaissance. What these late-'60s/early-'70s British folk revivalists have in common are gloriously soaring female vocals rooted in a traditional, guitar based sound.
Ghosts opens with "Sunshine," which features a delicate guitar tapestry underneath the duo's perfectly matched harmonies. By the time the fiddle solo comes in, you know that these women are the real deal. Not everything Smoke Fairies do is directly related to folk however. On "When You Grow Old," I hear traces of the under-appreciated Chris Rea, for example. And "Living With Ghosts" is reminiscent of the acoustic sounds of Led Zeppelin's III.
Even the Golden God himself (Robert Plant) was enthralled by the late Sandy Denny. She is the only outside musician to ever receive a credit on a Led Zeppelin album, for her contribution to "The Battle Of Evermore." And she is clearly the biggest influence on the Smoke Fairies. You can hear it in nearly every track, but especially on "Troubles," "Frozen Heart," and "We Had Lost Our Minds."
Ghosts closes with "He's Moving On," a change of pace for the duo. This high, lonesome blues is quite compelling, and reflects the time they spent living in New Orleans. It is little wonder that Jack White was so thrilled to discover them as the spare sound of this number is right up his alley.
Reportedly, Smoke Fairies went down a storm at this year’s SXSW, and they are currently at work on a full-length album. Keep an eye on them because if Ghosts is any indication, Smoke Fairies have a bright future in store.