Mature musings from a young woman
The fourth album in Guitar Lessons London’s 5 Great Guitar Albums series of blogs is Laura Marling’s stunning 2010 release I Speak Because I Can. Immediately noticeable is the young Marling’s (at the time of release only 20 years old) strong, rich vocals – sometimes roaring, often soft and intimate – which dominate the album. On What He Wrote, Marling’s voice becomes almost conversational. Along with much more intricate guitar work, the album marks a depth and maturity for Marling from her previous album Alas, I Cannot Swim, released in 2008.
Charming folk guitar work
The guitars themselves are predominantly, if not entirely, acoustic. We hear a variety of strumming, fingerpicking, noodling – in combination with minimal percussion, background strings and strong backing vocals – which compliment Marling’s distinctive voice extremely well. The folk influence on ISBIC is clear, with elements of country music too, particularly on the more driving songs that include the banjo, such as album opener Devil’s Spoke. It is these tracks, characterised by rhythmic guitar work, which both counter and compliment the more tender ballads Made by Maid and Goodbye England (Covered in Snow) very well. Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons provides back-up vocals throughout the album, which bring out the strength and tenderness of Marling’s own voice. Darkness Descends is an apt example of this.
A folk masterclass
The album itself is a mini master class in folk-rock guitar playing, resulting in ten well-crafted, thoughtful and mature songs. Its influence on female singer songwriters was large, and Laura Marling remains a modern folk icon to this day, having just released her sixth album Semper Femina. ISBIC was ranked number 8 on the Guardian’s top albums of 2010 and number 263 on NME’s 500 Greatest Albums of all Time. Marling also received the award for Best British Solo Artist at the 2011 Brit Awards for I Speak Because I Can. Highlights include Rambling Man, Blackberry Stone, Alpha Shallows and Darkness Descends.