We Are Willow - Part 1

Simon Jay Catling 19/07/2010

Rating: 3.5/5

We Are Willow is a departure of sorts for Chris Butler, one half of stalwart folk duo Butler Williams, in that it sees an abandonment of his rugged tales of masculine friendship and wry musings and instead - in a move typical of the Manchester folk scene's collaborate and collaborate-alike bonhomie - allow the delicate tones of fellow Mancunian-based singer Kathryn Edwards to inject a sense of doubt and fragility into his acoustic scrawlings.

What does remain however is Butler's canny knack of matching atmosphere with the gravitas of a song's words; on opening track 'Bound By String,' Edwards' fluttering vocal is juxtaposed against the guitarist's heavily strummed and slightly scuzzed chords, whilst her lyrical yearnings also deak in the conveyance of light and shade, “escaping the doldrums of reality… I'm bound to you by string.” Initially Butler's voice doesn't quite intertwine with his female counterpart's with quite the seamless grace that it does with day job partner Noel Williams, but he goes some way towards rectifying that on following number 'Saving Grace.' Taking the lead this time, with accustomed world weariness, he's tense against Edwards' attempts of soothing caress, whilst sparse surroundings are concocted with little more than guitar, piano and squeeze box.

There's nothing template breaking about the duo's male-female vocal routine, but any innovation lacked is superseded by poise and affectation, 'Untitled' taking a gentle turn away from the troubled structures of the opening numbers towards the more familiar, firmer ground of the gently understated fade out 'Deep Blue Skies.' Here, Butler's lulling sighs of feeling “tired” are apt; there's a deep emotion running between he and Edwards here that evokes a feeling of scale, far beyond the EP's eleven minutes. It's an absorbing way to open a trilogy that seems almost certain to challenge its chief inventor to his limit.

Release Date: Out Now