Editors' pick

Laura Marling

Singer-Songwriters
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Editorial Review

LAURA MARLING
Album review: "I Speak Because I Can"

Based on her new album, "I Speak Because I Can," it would seem there are two Laura Marlings.

On the album, the singer comes across as an emotionally weathered woman of a certain age whose voice has settled into a lower register. The other Laura Marling is the singer-songwriter herself: a fair-skinned cherub of 20 with a voice twice her age. It may not seem fair to evaluate Marling's second album within the context of her age, but it serves to show the work's sophistication and emotional heft.

The cornerstone of Marling's music is her powerful voice, which is deep, rich and comforting. Yet her delivery never seems overbearing. Lyrically, she is emotional and reflective but never veers in a confessional direction that could suggest her youth. Furthermore, her quiet, assured folk sound and tendency to use antiquated language give the songs a timeless quality. On the dusty ballad "Made by Maid," she sings, "I am blamed for every wrong ever he made/Forgive me I am only a maid/But I can see a babe under all that blame."

Although most of "I Speak Because I Can" is contemplative and heartfelt, the tracks span a variety of moods, from somber ("Hope in the Air") to quietly giddy ("Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)"). The undeniable highlight is "Blackberry Stone," a melancholy lament featuring bittersweet strings and a gorgeous vocal melody.

-- Dan Miller, Weekend (May 2010)