The Children’s Hour – SOS JFK (reissue)

The Children's Hour - SOS JFK

The Children’s Hour – SOS JFK

Having beguiled many new followers with last year’s slowly-intoxicating Blood Rushing, it’s inevitable that urges to explore Josephine Foster’s back catalogue are strong amongst some late-comers.  Yet it’s not an easy journey to navigate; with Foster’s past wares scattered between multiple labels (Locust Music, Bo’Weavil, Fire Records and others) across a decade demarked by diverse genre-hopping.  So perhaps the best option is to go back to near the beginning of her recording career, with the short-lived duo operations of The Children’s Hour. Which is prudent, as the folks at Fire have just reissued the twosome’s sole studio album.

Originally released in 2003 on Rough Trade, SOS JFK finds Foster – having not long dropped out of opera school – tentatively forging a new muse with collaborator Andy Bar.  On the surface of it, the LP is an unpretentiously charming folk-pop record with a still-fresh naïve charm. However, it is also important documentary evidence of a re-blooming singular talent finding a new place for a remarkable voice and an impressive artistic ambition.

With Foster assuming vocals duties as well as playing guitar, harp, piano and harmonium and Bar on guitar and bass (with Tim Daisy and Jason Ajemian adding some drums and bass, respectively) SOS JFK is a gathering of tiny beatific details rolled-up into a fluidly flowing suite of songs.  Even though the aesthetics shift only subtly across the album, Foster and Bar still cover a lot of ground within simplicity-framed parameters; from the lullaby-like opening of “Little Boy,” through the harmony-drenched “Mary,” via the fragile Appalachian rustics of “Kindness Of Strangers,” inside the Hispanic dynamics of “Lost Love,” across the radiant harp-rippling “Special King” and into the gorgeous oriental shadings of “Chinese Song.”

Whilst the long-player is perhaps three songs too long at thirteen tracks and although occasionally Foster sounds like she’s struggling to tame her wilder operatically-trained tones to cohesively fit more conventional song structures (particularly on the slightly shrill and discordant “Going Home”), SOS JFK is still overall a cherishable collection for new and old fans alike.  The catch-up exercise should start earnestly here without delay.

Fire Records