With their second album, Dead Reckoning, Edinburgh-based duo The Jellyman’s Daughter have capitalised fully on the rich promise of their eponymous debut album and launched a strong bid for recognition as one of the most vibrant and original young bands in UK contemporary music. In the few short years since their debut, Emily Kelly and Graham Coe have developed considerably as musicians, singers and songwriters and their new album is a rich and varied collection of ten tracks: eight original songs, one cover and one instrumental. Here is song-writing of the highest order, drawing on influences as diverse as bluegrass/Americana; classical/chamber; folk; and sixties and seventies pop and rock (from both sides of the Atlantic) to create a unique and distinctive sound. While the pair’s exquisite vocals and harmonies and Graham Coe’s dynamic and expressive cello playing remain at the core of the band’s signature sound, the arrangements have become ever more adventurous and expansive, heightened on this album by a series of sweeping string accompaniments.
Underpinned by resonant cello and gently-picked madolin, the reflective opening song, Quiet Movie, is the first to showcase the delicate end of Emily Kelly’s and Graham Coe’s impressive vocal ranges and features delicious harmonies and sumptuous strings. With pleasing shades of both The Beatles and The Everly Brothers, I Hope is notable for forceful vocals with a soulful edge and soaring old-timey cello and banjo breaks. Ushered in by some of Coe’s trademark choppy and rhythmic cello, Oh Boy features interesting tempo changes and a dreamy, lullaby-like chorus. More soulful vocals are in evidence in the assertive Giving Up, which also boasts a sinuous and swinging cello solo. The halfway point in the album is reached with the epic slow-burn of Dead Reckoning, with more bewitching harmonies and stunning strings.
A spotlight is shone on worrying political trends in the cautionary The Worst Of It All (“…Thank God, we haven’t seen the worst of it all…”). This is a quiet masterpiece, beautifully sung and punctuated by suitably haunting banjo, cello and fiddle solos. This sense of foreboding is lifted immediately by The Shoogly Peg, an exuberant instrumental with pulsating banjo, cello and double bass breaks. A cover of the classic Jimmy C. Newman country ballad, Cry, Cry, Darling, is achingly beautiful, with the quietly impassioned harmonies conveying perfectly the anguish of the song’s narrator. More skilful changes in mood and tempo are apparent in the elegant and expansive You Don’t Know Love, which also features call-and-response vocals which linger in the mind. With more spine-tingling harmonies and delicate mandolin and cello, White Shadows closes the album in a graceful and moving fashion (“…Ooh, be sleeping with our eyes open, our eyes open; Ooh, be keeping all our high hopes up…”).
Dead Reckoning was released in March 2018 on Boat Duck Records.
For more information on The Jellyman’s Daughter, click here.