Velvet & Stone is a Contemporary Folk duo from Devon, UK that consists of Lara Snowdon (songwriter/lead vocal/acoustic guitar) and Kathryn Tremlett (violin/backing vocals).
Velvet & Stone have released four studio albums including their latest “Velvet & Stone” – a Folk Rock chef-d'oeuvre.
I describe Velvet & Stone as a modern mesh of Classic Folk and Contemporary Pop Rock as their melodies and instrumentation melds both genres to create a sound that is specifically Velvet & Stone. Their lyrical content spans the full gamut of the human condition with songs speaking on topics of love and its many simplicities and complications.
“Velvet & Stone” keeps up with the duo’s formula of crafting meditative, emotional, soul-driven music. Their self-titled EP contains nine songs:
- Fisherman’s Blues
- Oh Boy
- Lay Her Down
- By the Water
- Am I Dreaming?
- Forget about the Rain
- I’ll Dream of you Tonight
And even though each song illustrates the music fingerprint of the duo, I will focus on the five songs that highlight the classically modern panache of Velvet & Stone.
The album opens with “Fisherman’s Blues” a mid-tempo song that modestly tells the story of finding love and losing love. Snowdon descriptively illustrates how love reacts in the same manner as the waves of the sea with its ebbing and flowing of entering love and the passing of love. In addition, she pairs this lyrical metaphor with the harsh and hazardous life of a fisherman. The lyrics sing: when I grew older I would walk down by the shore / It was there that I met my fishing boy / bonny, brave and pure / I remember how we danced / we were laughing at the sky / but the captain’s call was coming / as sure as the tides / we sang the fisherman’s blues / we sang the fisherman’s blues / our cottage by the harbour was safe and sound / at night when the storm rose and the winds did howl / on days when my fishing boy / he must go out to sea / we’d stand on the shoreline and sing / we’d sing the fisherman’s blues . . . one day my fishing boy he never came home / there were tears in our small town / it never grew old / I hollered at the dark skies as a storm rolled in / those ships on the horizon they’ll never come in / we sang the fisherman’s blues. Kathryn Tremlett’s violins, and the bass notes in the background, alludes to the rural imagery of “Fisherman’s Blues” perfectly.
“Oh Boy” starts with low soulful, southern, harmonic hums and percussions and builds with layers of instrumentation – excited violins, acoustic and electric guitars, double bass, keys, and a banjitar. This layering of music supports the song’s storyline of renewing yourself after a part of you has died from a tumultuous relationship. In addition, Snowdon’s drivingly anguished, yet confident, lead vocals pair well with the ambivalence-spurred backing vocals of Tremlett. This tussle of harmonies support lyrics that contain nuances of loss, bitterness, and a carrying hope – all equally complementing the duo’s message of strength and hope. This double handclap, foot stomp-worthy, modern Folk-Rock track will easily become our generation’s rhapsody.
The most seductively mellow track is called “Lay Her Down.” The lyrics impart a hazy story that is very contemplative in that it can have multiple interpretations. But from its substantial words, and from the bittersweet vocal techniques, the track imparted a narrative of unfaithfulness to me, to illustrate, the lyrics sing: lay her down however sweet you think the sound / I’m standing fast / here’s one for you whilst it lasts / when the night / when it feels like rain / when the winter / when it comes again . . . as for love / who is it you are dreaming of? . . . she’ll sing love to you and you’ll swear that we’re through / but you’ll say she’s like me / did you know? is she like me? / yes, yes, yes, oh yes / through the rain and the snow there was rain but it froze / lay her down / however sweet you think the sound. It’s like the female protagonist of the story is conservatively saying to her ex-lover that when it is all over with, is she really like me? was it worth the damage? Such a joy to have a song that is multifaceted in its theme.
Apart from the music in Lay Her Down’s chorus, the intro and verse music are laid back. The fervent violins and tambourines highlight such soul while the melody contains a dense drumming which easily becomes a prominent feature of the song’s rhythm. And I just love, love, love the deep register that Snowdon chose to execute on the track! The third song in the collection should be bottled up and sold – it’s just that good!
And if you are ready for fire and the rain, take multiple listens to “Walls.” It features a stuttering violin technique that evokes anxiety and a narrative about standing with courage and resolve to rebuild or hold up any “wall” that you see in front of you falling down be it in the form of love, identity, or courage – the lyrics allude to this, “The days have gone for crying and the days have gone for change. I’ll not stand here in the wreckage alone and cry your name. There’s a woman in the town who sits beneath these walls. She told me to be bold and for you I will not stall. To be bold I will stand in the wreckage for you. It will take all our courage as the walls are falling through. Time is but a healer and the stones are coming lose. The walls they are falling down.” With this song, Velvet & Stone slowly peel back the layers and soon display a masterpiece. The acoustic finger style guitar picking, along with the piano, really demonstrate the musical call to action that the lyrics showcase. And at the one minute / 45 seconds mark, Tremlett nails it with her violin skills – I mean, the girl is mean! The passion that she evokes on this track is just wicked! “Walls” is that kind of Country Bluesy / Folk Rock song that we just love to love.
Standing in contrast from the Folk-Rock “Oh Boy,” the sixth track “By the Water” is a nice slice of Folk Pop. “By the Water” infuses a fresh up-tempo vibe. This track’s storyline deals with how people from different worlds could love equally and honestly without preconceptions when they have a common safe place to bond. In “By the Water,” that common safe place is the water – a place of tranquility, peace, and unbiasedness – an even playing field where two lovers can encounter each other without prejudiced eyes watching or opinionated ears listening. The lyrics perfectly defines this description, singing: Once there was a boy and a girl who couldn’t see / their blindness was catching / they circled around you, around me / but still they ran and they hoped that no one was watching through the trees / and there they broke and they spoke by the river / tell no one but the sea / break me down by the river / you’re the fire that I seek / meet me there by the water / reflecting back at me / whisper low by the river / carry me down stream / meet me there by the water for all to see.
Snowdon does a wonderful job executing “By the Water” by adding texture to her vocals being soft in some spots of the lead and then harsh in the backing vocals and bridge. The additional solo adlibs of “ooh-hoo” gives the track so much character. Infusing tempered Bluegrass and Folk instrumentation of acoustic guitars, double bass, tambourines heavy percussions, and violins all played with a spirited Pop style, along with a lead vocal that carries a passionate tune laced with soul makes “By the Water” a modern Folk Pop track that is easy-breezy and ideally a classic working class anthem.
We close with a traditional Folk song called “I’ll Dream of You Tonight.” This is a nuanced song as it expresses subtle shades of meaning or feeling within the music and the lines that slowly paints a full picture representing the song’s true meaning of true love. “I’ll Dream of you Tonight” features that “raining down” vibe attached to the core melody. And I say “raining down” effect because I mean that the melody just drops down emotionally and forceful yet delicate truly showcasing the theme’s all-consuming presence. The song is so subtle and infectious. The clean lines of the instrumentation and the vocals just makes for easy listening. The song closes with that wonderful fairytale emotion that makes the listener think about happily ever after.
In an era of music that is filled to the gills with mainstream Pop and Hip-Hop, Velvet & Stone sits atop as they offer difference and authenticity.
What I enjoy about Velvet & Stone’s music is that they aren’t taking away from the Folk genre, they are broadening its seams by engineering a return to classically emotive storytelling and combining it with modern techniques, rhythms, and timing. Their songwriting makes you think instead of outright supplying the listener with a boring narrative. They push the genre and have the songwriting tools to evoke mindfulness and emotional perception.
“Velvet & Stone” is a ballad-driven collection of music, but with varying degrees of tempo and melody which should make it an easy placement on Adult Contemporary radio.
A special shoutout to Roger Styles, Paddy Blight, Josiah Manning, Pete Maher, Kev Jackson, Garry Kroll, Miles Snowdon, and David Blight for making the music and production happen!
What Velvet & Stone has when it comes to music reaches further than just the entertainment industry; this duo has harnessed the concept of appealing to the imagination of the listener which makes their music thought-provoking and addicting in every industry.