Coming in at just under thirty minutes, Fire Begot Ash is a somewhat fleeting experience, but it's certainly one that will catch your attention. Jason Steel breezes past with an effortless but intricate whirlwind of folk-blues with occasional hints of americana. It's like walking down a busy street and catching the momentary genius of a street entertainer, but with this recording you have the added benefit of being able to start all over again and immerse yourself in its rustic charms. Consisting of voice and either solo guitar or banjo, and with some of the material being wholly instrumental, Fire Begot Ash is a sparse, unassuming affair that allows you to climb in to its capacious soundscape and familiarise yourself with each secluded nook and cranny.
The instrumental tracks are striking for their fluid intricacy, and their ability to evoke the emotions about which they were written. On "Ginger Wine Rag," the feelings of friendship and bonhomie are palpable, whilst the frantic tempo of "Young People Dancing" conjures up a much more energetic sense of fun.
Nestled amongst the mesmerisingly nimble guitar work there are tender and introspective ballads, where Steel's occasionally indecipherable vocal lies somewhere between lethargy and sheer blissed out contentment. "The Black House" is a particularly bleak ruminative piece, whilst "Poppy Rosa" provides a more playful recollection of love's first flush.
It tends to be the banjo-led, americana-influenced tracks where Steel really stretches his voice, with a lonesome old-time drawl such as on "Lycanthrope Stomp" where Steel ponders the darker sides of sleepless nights under a full moon, or on "Cling & Claw" where Steel ruefully picks over the bones of a dead relationship.
Fire Begot Ash has a straightforward intuitiveness: sparing and simple, yet all the more rich for this. It's a real charmer of an album, and one can't imagine not falling under its intimate spell.
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