Three years ago a Portuguese-Canadian singer-songwriter came out
of nowhere with an energetic and sprawling debut album, Whoa
Nelly!
, that encompassed an impressive mix of world beat,
strong urban influences and clever songwriting that succeeded
largely because she was so naïve, ambitious and
enthusiastic.

Janna Hutz
Folk me gently. Courtesy of DreamWorks

Fast forward to the present day and Nelly’s sophomore
release, Folklore, has all the signs of someone trying to
seem older. From the darker cover and album art, it obvious that
this record is different. As the title implies, her focus is on
folk, and the cultural influences and acoustic sounds are strong.
Though her idea that folk is anyone singing about what is around
them, it seems like she is just looking around singing. While that
is not necessarily bad, it is very contingent on the quality of the
observations and the songs involved. The songs just aren’t as
good and the level of songwriting has declined. More often than not
this feels like her bid to be taken seriously, and the record is a
bit too self-conscious and straightforward.

The exuberance that appeared on her debut is largely gone and
the playful abstraction and poetry have been replaced by extremely
overwrought syrupy love ballads that further confirms the notion
that artists in deep open love suffer in the writing department
(John Lennon, Common).

Recorded largely during her pregnancy, her somewhat nasal voice
is lower and it helps her sound more serious. Using the same
production team as before she incorporates more instrumental guest
appearances from artists such as Bela Fleck and the Kronos Quartet.
In the end , there’s nothing as immediately catchy as the
material on her debut and it ends up as an overly literal and
awkward transition from a promising artist.

Rating: 3 stars.

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