Sam and Henry, is Samantha Marais and Henry Dingle, a collective of sorts who are releasing their respective albums At My Door (AMD) and The Boy Who Never Learned (TBWNL), together on the 4th of April. Whilst this is a joint release, the two discs are very different in character and neither one appears to include any degree of collaboration:

AMD is a fairly straight edge folk/country affair with some truly lovely melodies -'Moth in Flight' in particular is dreamy piece of harp-playing. There is however a strong dependence on vocal self-harmonies, and rather than a near-perfect accord, the multiple layers of Marais' voice clash together a little awkwardly. It's not enough to ruin an album on its own, but even beyond this trick I found the album to be on the whole, pretty grating. The thing is that singer-songwriters, when good, strip back everything but the bare bones of a piece of music, and leave something that can be really quite personal. But here there doesn't seem to be anything to strip back to, and when Marais sings "This is re-he-he-he-he-he-he-he-eal life" in the chorus of 'Real Life', or when she explains, profoundly "If I can't be your lady, you can't be my man," in 'Your Lady', that substance is clearly lacking.

TBWNL on the other hand is a much more fleshed out affair, it's a more modern folk than that of AMD, and by and large that's a good thing. Lyrically in particular Dingle seems to be the superior of the two, and the self-aware love song to Dalston, 'I Woke Up', is a personal highlight. Dingle's voice has a richness to it that reminds me at times of Damien Rice, and the simple melodies accentuate this well. This richness is a double edged sword though and can come over as a little too forceful, making 'Maddy' and 'This Night's Not Dead' sound a touch over-egged at times.

What puzzles me about these releases is the disparate nature of the projects. Sam and Henry apparently perform together, frequently playing each other's songs, and that melding seems to be, at least partly, what is lacking from these albums. For one, the self harmonies could be done away with, but further each could round off the other's corners. Marais would mitigate some of the masculinity in Dingle's songs, and Dingle could provide the instrumental bulk that I think is missing from Marais'. So it's a shame that this release shows little sign of that collaboration, live I reckon they could be a pretty impressive duo, but here their efforts fall short.

Photobucket