People don’t read the morning newspaper, Marshall McLuhan once said; they slip into it like a warm bath.
Canadian folk chanteuse Gabrielle Papillion’s latest long player ‘Little Bug’ is a lot like this sentiment. You’ll hit play and before you know it her eleven sweet songs will have washed over you like a hazy summer’s evening. That’s not to say they don’t have impact- these subtle melodies find a way of lodging themselves in your head and making a home there.
This is Papillion’s fourth studio album and most accomplished to date. Taking her cues from folk giants like Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, The McGarrigle sisters and Bobby Dylan himself- Gabrielle’s dulcet tones are complimented by her delicate acoustic finger-picking which carries everything along at an easy, steady pace.
Highlights include the lilting ‘Oh My Favourite’- which would be the perfect accompaniment to a late night campfire, and an ode to escaping the concrete jungle on ‘Concrete of the City’. The album begins to pick up more momentum in the second half, there’s even a switch to electric guitar and although there are moments of melancholia, the lyrics never dwell.
The brooding ‘He Knows’ leads into Papillion’s standout cover of the old Leadbelly classic ‘In the Pines’ (made famous by Nirvana’s version). With its haunting wronged lover’s accusation ‘Where did you sleep last night?’- this cover leaves a lasting impression.
My personal highlight is the wistful ‘Coccinelle’; which means ladybug in French. The entire song is in French so I’m not quite sure what it’s about (care to Google translate, anyone?), but I do know that it sounds like an elegant French lullaby bursting with charm and subtly layered backing vocals bordering on the downright angelic. (Srsly like!)
There are hues of more modern folk heroes like Laura Marling, Cat Power, Irishman Fionn Reagan and fellow Canadian, Feist- still Papillion has carved out a gentle niche of her own. ‘Little Bug’ is an assured, simple and refreshingly stripped back album that will leave the listener with a sweet taste for more.
Words: Tia Clarke