With the American release of Oh, My Darling, Canada's Basia Bulat finally comes stateside, which is a boon for lovers of crisp folk-pop delivered with tinges of country and gospel.
The motifs here are handclaps, syrupy string accompaniments, jangly autoharp and simple guitar joined by harmonica, flute or rickety drum kit. The songs have a vintage feel, as if they're lost spirituals that Bulat has unearthed for us. It's a nice aesthetic, and the album's folkloric warmth radiates in the loveliness of "Little One," the foot-stomping celebration of "In the Night" and the sparse devotional charm of the title track.
Oh, My Darling has a pagan flavor overall, with song titles like "The Pilgriming Vine" and "Snakes and Ladders." But this is no Faun Fables. Sure, the songs feel like they'd be best heard around the campfires of a gypsy wagon train, but this becomes a virtue rather than a vice. This success rests squarely on the irresistibility of Bulat's vocal melodies. It's hard not to sing along, and after the first listen, I found myself humming her choruses while doing the dishes.
Bulat's voice sometimes conjures the spirit of Carly Simon, and her wordplay recalls Joni Mitchell (especially considering most of the songs revolve around a female speaker who risks her heart for love and who, when she suffers for it, survives emboldened rather than embittered). I guess "originality" can be overrated: Bulat's album satisfies because of its instant familiarity and wholeness of heart.