Last night a young English woman dressed in white with her hair pulled back in a simple bun stunned the El Rey Theatre with her vocal prowess. No additional flashy lights or smoke machines were necessary. Laura Marling's voice strong and clear, stopped conversations in their tracks and commanded attention.
What made her voice so exceptional, however, was not its strength or the notes it could hit, although those were impressive, but the stories Marling told. Not even old enough to order a beer at the bar, Laura Marling wove tales that would belong to a woman three times her age. At the tender age of twenty, Marling is spinning stories that belong to a soul who had known sixty years of love, loss, and the ghosts of regret that follow in their wake.
For a woman with such a tremendous singing voice, Marling was shockingly soft-spoken and at times bashful. “I don't really drive, so I haven't really gotten to grips with L.A.” Marling admitted half way through the set, “I don't know why I told you that. Maybe I'll just stick to singing.”
Backing her up was a stellar band consisting of a guitar, a cello, a double bass, and a drum kit. The warmth of the strings created an air of drama around Marling's words and the drummer's ominous rhythms sounded like a giant's footsteps getting closer and closer and closer. Each and every of the band sang back up for Marling which rose up as one gigantic voice ringing out from the stage.
The end result was not the kind of warm and fuzzy hippie folk that talks about sunflowers and feelings. No, Marling's folk is more traditional, the kind you would expect around a campfire. The kind that scares the bejeezus out of you with stories of drownings, night terrors and the Devil. The kind grandmothers all over the world use to scare their grandkids into going to bed. You know–the good kind.
Marling closed out the night with the title track off her sophomore disk “I Speak Because I Can.” Perhaps the next album should be titled, “I Sing Because I Should.” One thing is clear, this young lady has got a long career ahead of her as long as she takes care of that voice and let's her imagination run wild. Don't let anyone try and tame it, Marling.