In only five short years, fledgling songwriter Laura Marling has proven that her passion can not be restrained by the musical norms of society. Hailing from Hampshire, England, the 23 year old songstress captures the enchantment of her alluring hometown in her inspired acoustic-folk compositions. Since the release of her debut album, Alas I Can Not Swim, in 2008, Marling has quickly gained the attention of music-lovers all throughout the world. The seasoned songstress has earned several prestigious awards in her brief career, such as Best Female Solo Artist in 2011.
Upon the release of her newest work, Once I Was an Eagle, Laura Marling has again demonstrated her incomparable prowess for songwriting. Once I Was an Eagle, her fourth full-length album, is her longest work to date. Clocking in at just over an hour, it is clearly the brainchild of her insatiable hunger for creation. By writing every song by herself, Marling gains the opportunity to actually become one with her music. Her solemn, inspired lyrics meet her clangorous, yet swampy strumming on her drop-tuned guitar to tell a personal tale of a young English maiden who has been scorn by love’s painful sting.
Correspondingly, the first four songs on Once I Was an Eagle adopt a dark, morose theme, crying of a broken heart and hopeless confusion. Although these songs, occupy four tracks on the album, they seamlessly transition into each other as if they are one single fifteen minute ballad. Showcasing the dark and earthy qualities of her voice, Marling moans out waves of hypnotizing lyrics, crying out over the backdrop set by her somber, forlorn guitar.
This sequence concludes with the beginning of the album’s only single, “Master Hunter.” “Master Hunter” demonstrates the folksinger’s true finesse as her voices brightens and intensifies while her band joins her in full force. Due to the heavy use of various exotic drums and percussion instruments, the single inherits the feel of a tribal celebration, and seems to strive to awaken peoples’ primordial urge to dance and gyrate around a bonfire.
The esoteric “Devil’s Resting Place” takes the listener by the hand and leads them to ethereal, medieval England, exposing them directly to Marling’s Anglo-Saxon witchcraft. She artfully matches her vocal melody with that of her guitar to create a chilling harmony in which she looks the devil himself in the eye. Her rhythmic, chanted lyrics create an unearthly hymn that personifies the evil she has found in love.
After a short interlude that solicits the skills of cellist Ruth de Tubercle, the theme of Once I Was an Eagle shifts to a quiet, yet jubilant cluster of compositions that expresses Marling’s deepest emotions. Songs like “Undine” and “Little Bird” continue to captivate listeners with Marling’s sincere lyrics, until the album concludes with the triumphant “Saved These Words,” in which she overcomes her own personal ‘devils.’
It is undeniably evident that Laura Marling epitomizes the image of a folksinger, and presents her most heartfelt work in Once I was an Eagle. Combining her raw, passionate voice, confident lyrics, and calculated guitar work, Marling competently weaves together an album bursting with English magick. Her chiming acoustic melodies bring listeners back to Bron-Y-Aur, with many characteristics that are very reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin III. While the innovative use of droning cello parts and complex thematic structures make Once I Was an Eagle entirely unique, it resonates with enough confidence to live on as a classic in the world of folksingers.