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Volume 71, Issue 61, Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Life & Arts

Bunyan returns as the mother of 'new folkie'

By Roger Vacovsky III
The Daily Cougar

After a little more than one would consider a hiatus -- try 35 years -- an "old master" of the late 1960s and early 1970s folk scene by the name of Vashti Bunyan resurfaces from relative obscurity to produce a truly seamless second offering. 

Even sparser than 1970's Just Another Diamond Day, Bunyan relies heavily on the strength of her own frail, otherworldly intonations (which she should) in an effort to give a reasonable explanation as to why she was away for so long. 

The title of Lookaftering refers to what was keeping her away from an immediate follow-up -- she was looking after her family. She appears almost surprised by what small success she's had. 

Bunyan said on her Web site, Diamond Day, "was not really released, it just edged its way out, blushed and shuffled off into oblivion. I abandoned it, and music, forever as I went on to travel with horses and wagons, with children and more dogs and chickens, eventually finding a place to make a more permanent home."

Rescuing her from the plight of this lone release is Fat Cat Records' sister label DiCristina Stair. Prior to Lookaftering, Bunyan had collaborated with Fat Cat mainstays Animal Collective on the Prospect Hummer EP. Again it was her breathtaking vocal performance that added the much-needed element of a harness to wrangle Animal Collective's chaotic dabblings in an even more palatable form.

Recently Bunyan has played mother to the "new folkie" scene, currently led by new "freak brother" Devandra Banhart. 

Banhart and others pay their respects with guest appearances on her new album as well Robert Kirby, who had worked with the new scene's adopted father Nick Drake. 

The already somber instruments of the harp, played by Joanna Newsom, and the Fender Rhodes electric piano are played at their bleakest to accompany Bunyan's wayfaring lyrics.

The standout track on beauty and content is "If I Were." Vashti explores the classic situation of a hard departure and the true test of love in possibly the most artful and honest way (a possible thesis for her hibernation) with "Would you follow me to the ends of the earth / To show me what your love is worth? / Or would you go and buy a car / Shrug your shoulders, say that you are / She didn't love me anyway / If she had she would have stayed."

Vashti Bunyan

Discristina Stair
Verdict: Well worth the 35-year wait.

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