Julian Redpath's debut - 'Maiden Light' on the Shelves of South Sea
Julian Redpath's "Maiden Light" is one of the most assured & exemplary folk albums to come out of South Africa in recent memory, writes Nick Mulgrew.
“I hope you don’t get fired for trying to make a story out of the most boring human in musical history.”
Granted, on the surface, things don’t paint Julian Redpath as particularly exciting – and he seems to know it.
Another reclusive singer-songwriter with a day job, 29 years old, who has just released his
debut full-length album – of acoustic guitar-driven folk – independently. About as vanilla as it gets, in other words.
But from the first minute of Maiden Light, an 11-strong suite of restrained and resonant heart songs,
something clicks. Redpath’s voice is clear and sonorous; his lyrics poetically concise; the production warm
and clean. The opener, Nightingale, exhibits everything good about Redpath’s music: assured songwriting
embellished only by passages of bright piano and cello, rich with reverb, and hinting throughout at some intimate, primal longing.
Such studied simplicity is the culmination of years of work and the corralling of experiences of a young life spent between Mthatha, Nottingham Road, Johannesburg and a few others in between.
Redpath recorded his parts for Maiden Light primarily on a farm in Dullstroom in 2012 and, since then, to coax the heart out of his compositions, has brought in a host of collaborators, including virtuoso instrumentalist Guy Buttery, cellist Clare Vandeleur (whom Redpath met on Facebook) and United States-based musician Prism Tats.
Even in the album’s (very) few weak moments, the nature of Redpath and Buttery’s production means that something interesting is seldom far away. Whether a sudden orchestral moment, a burst of anti-folk fuzz and
sheet-metal shimmer, or a burst of poetry from Mpapa Simo Majola, there are pieces for magpies in every track.