Cardiff-born singer Alison Statton’s first group, Young Marble Giants, lit and carried a bright torch for the lo-fi indie scene that would flourish in the ’90s. Her subsequent group, the coolly jazz-inflected Weekend, anticipated the suave cocktail pop that Everything but the Girl, Sade and others would popularize. After the end of Weekend, Statton went back to university, but re-emerged near the end of the ’80s in a duo with Manchester guitarist/songwriter Ian Devine (ex-Ludus). The pair made two albums of spare, Celtic-flecked folk-pop, covering tunes by New Order (“Bizarre Love Triangle” on The Prince of Wales) and Crystal Gayle (“Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” on Cardiffians) in the process.
Moving on, Statton reunited with Weekend guitarist Spike and recorded the five-song Weekend in Wales in a matter of hours. While the smooth sound of “A Greater Notion” would not be out of place on lite-FM, the song has an inherent charm that sets it apart from the pabulum of that genre. Violinist Paul Sax adds a chamber-like character to the proceedings; erstwhile Young Marble Giant Philip Moxham plays percussion.
Extensive use of string bass, violin, viola and trumpet fill out the sound of the more ambitious Tidal Blues, which contains a new version of “A Greater Notion.” The album’s warm, organic nature is epitomized by the gentle sway of “Take Heart” and Statton’s lush doubletracked vocals on “Lemming Time.” Nico’s Chelsea Girl makes an apt point of reference for the elegance of songs like “Hidden Combat.” The only misstep comes when the duo quickens the pace on a fiddle-driven hoedown (“In This World”) and loses the plain beauty of Statton’s voice in the confusion.
Recorded live in Japan, Maple Snow recaps Statton’s career with songs from both Weekend and Young Marble Giants. In place of Tidal Blues‘ string-ensemble arrangements, Statton, Spike, Philip and Stuart Moxham are joined by keyboardist Sarah McGuinness. Statton’s enormous growth — both stylistically and vocally — is unmistakable in the comparison of Young Marble Giant’s stark original of “Salad Days” and the splendid, full performance the song receives here. Spike’s guitar fluency reaches its pinnacle on the reworking of Weekend’s “Midnight Slows.”