Dear Shapenote readers, I apologize, because my classical music training is showing. I’m about to tell you about an album with a symphony orchestra on it, and you may wonder what place that has on a folk music website. Your concerns may be valid, but there’s also a singer-songwriter on this recording, and that helps, right? OK, perhaps I should explain.
The UK artist Fin Greenall, who records under the name Fink, started out in the world of ambient techno and dance music, but then transformed his sound completely to become Ninja Tune record label’s first acoustic finger-style guitarist/singer-songwriter. His 2006 album Biscuits for Breakfast, recorded with current collaborators Guy Whittaker and Tim Thornton, solidified this new folk-tinged direction for Fink, and was followed up by Distance and Time in 2007, Sort of Revolution in 2009, and Perfect Darkness in 2011.
Songs from this back catalogue are featured in symphonic arrangements on this 2012 album with the Royal Concertgebouw, as well as a couple of classical pieces chosen by Fink. Now, many artists from various genres including folk are performing with orchestras these days (Blue Rodeo, Jann Arden, and Basia Bulat are just a few of the names that spring to mind) and sometimes these collaborations work out better than others.
This is one that works. Jules Buckley of the Heritage Orchestra, who has a reputation for unconventional orchestral pairings, has expertly crafted these arrangements to enhance Fink’s introspective songs. Greenall’s gravelly voice and acoustic guitar on “Yesterday Was Hard on All of Us” is punctuated by a swell of strings and brass at just the right point to heighten the effect of his lyrics. The orchestral writing walks a fine line between accessibility and technical prowess and sits in the sweet spot every good arranger strives for. Buckley gets Fink’s music and knows how to complement it, from the flourishes of fluttering strings in “Sort of Revolution” that evoke a flock of rising birds from some long-lost Disney cartoon, to the glockenspiel accents that sit like points of light on top of Fink’s words in “Berlin Sunrise.”
Tunes featuring the collaborative efforts of orchestra + folk-singer are interspersed with tracks that showcase each act individually, which is an interesting and refreshing choice for this kind of album. These are all great players, and it’s nice to see a tracklist that includes such range. To borrow one of Fink’s song titles, This is The Thing: you should listen to this album, to see just how diverse the “folk” label can be these days.
Fink with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra: Yesterday Was Hard on All of Us
Fink Meets the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is available on iTunes