SONGLINES ALBUM REVIEW
✭✭✭✭ ‘Top of the World’ album.
The album begins with a soft low hum, then more lyrical vocal layers build up, like layers of cumulus across a twilit sky – this is First Lullaby, and the thrilling entry into the JigDoll cosmos – Hannah James’ first solo work. She’s been touring her remarkable stage show over the past six months or so, and the album is a stunning showcase of James’ accordion, foot percussion and voice – hers is among the most beautiful and compelling voices raised into the folk tradition over the past decade or so.
Fusing traditions of song and dance with her own original innovations, James draws on personal history – her great-great granddad was an itinerant music hall artiste – and her own travelling life as a performer. On stage, she used pedals, loops and live instruments, while on record, what’s striking is the beauty of the layered vocals, the mix of words and abstract vocalisations, the abstract textures of her solo accordion on, for example, Tuulika’s Tune or the following Yodeling, or the explicit message residing in Refugee Song, which takes a broadside ballad about a refugee from England, with James giving it one of her great vocals, while the voice-drones on the likes of Treasures, or the closing Last Lullaby, make for a unique and extremely powerful musical statement.