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Starling Arrow – Cradle Review

Five spirit-folk songstresses team up for a vocal album to treasure.

What does Starling Arrow sound like?

Femininity and mother nature distilled into pure vocal and acoustic guitar brilliance.

The review of Starling Arrow – Cradle

Before we dive into Cradle, it is probably best to explain who Starling Arrow is. Starling Arrow is an all-star cast of spirit-folk songstresses featuring Leah Song and Chloe Smith of Rising Appalachia, Tina Malia, Ayla Nereo, and Marya Stark. For their debut album, each member wrote two original tracks and arranged vocal harmonies for them so that all five artists perform on each other’s tracks. It is a collaborative project from the ground up and that connection and collective mind-melting approach shines.

photo of Starling Arrow
Starling Arrow

‘Cradle’ is a vocal first album. For instance, ‘Into The River’ may have a trickling water background but everything else is voice. Cycling harmonies, duelling lyrics and soothing backing tones are five women working their voices like a campfire song. Elsewhere tracks like ‘Hush Hush’ may have an acoustic guitar or very minimal harp hiding in the mix but the power and empathy largely come from the vocals. The five voices work so well together too – never feeling the need to overpower or go too dramatic – but keeping the melody and harmony front and centre.

Starling Arrow largely stay in the ethereal folk realm but sometimes they wander outside of it. ‘Swoon and Wander’ is a soulful gospel vocal piece that really stands out. ‘By The Jordan’ sounds like an ambient Sarah McLachlan track from her ‘Fumbling Towards Ecstacy’ era with its minimal keyboard undertone. ‘Wild Sweet’ uses a deep resonant frame drum to give a light African vibe to the track and the vocal harmony leans into that style too. It’s one of only a couple of tracks where percussion exists, the Appalachian inspired ‘Oh Darlin” being the other.

Oddly, it is the closing track where no words are spoken that I’ve had on repeat the most. ‘Mightnight Hum’ is six and a half minutes of pure musical restoration. The quintet create a delicate hushed hum circle and it’s one of the most elegant and cosy pieces I’ve heard in ages. This album is incredibly feminine and motherly, moving proactively into a caretaker role most of the time. This closing piece is like a lullaby for the weary and it sent me to a deep sleep when I put it on a loop quietly a few nights back.

‘Cradle’ is a beautiful album full of folk charm and stunning vocal harmonies. Both motherly and nurturing, it is an album to seek calm and solace from but also to be uplifted by too. Whilst it may initially sound on paper that a voice and acoustic guitar folk album might lack variety and pizzazz, Starling Arrow makes each track feel fresh. Be that changing the mood, style or background, your ears are in constant caress and attention. This is dynamite for anyone into the acoustic folk scene.

Recommended track: By The Jordan

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Starling Arrow - Cradle



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