Colorado-based singer-songwriter Josephine Foster has been releasing her sepia-tinted, off-centre folk songs for the best part of two decades now, establishing herself as a recognisable voice that resists easy comparison with others. The nine tracks here offers a continuation of this well-developed style of sorts but also sees her break new ground in expanding her instrumentation, specifically by incorporating synths into her sound. It may be an unexpected development to those familiar with her work, especially given that her otherworldly music has often felt to have more in common with past worlds and distant times, but it works well and eventually comes to feel like a natural transition and renewal of purpose.
A certain outsider-folk kinship can at times be felt with the likes of Karen Dalton and Annette Peacock while, looking further back, bluesy shades of Billie Holiday and Nina Simone linger in the background. Yet, there is still something unique to Foster’s music, something once again reinforced on Godmother. Opening track Hum Menina builds on her core sound with the addition of subtle electronics and this progression is addressed more directly on songs like Old Teardrop and Guardian Angel. The latter in particular stands out, showcasing her evolved sound via prominent synths, augmented structure and a pressing vocal melody. The ghostly apparitions of Sparks Fly meanwhile possess a frail mournfulness as she questions her position in the world, drawing us into her slightly mysterious world. Later, Gold Entwine meanders sorrowfully and introspectively, further adding to the album’s slanted, precarious air.
Foster spent time training as an opera singer when younger and, like on previous albums I’m A Dreamer and Blood Rushing, there are moments of muted theatricality here also. Flask Of Wine sees her experiment with structure while Dali Rama brings more in the way of sparseness and melancholy. The Sum Of Us All closes the album on a note of winding, affecting simplicity. With its curled ends, frilled sides and remote demeanour, her voice can be something of an acquired taste but she’s rarely sounded more contemporary than on this record.
Listening to Foster’s music sometimes feels like the audio equivalent of entering a long-abandoned, cobwebbed attic and stumbling across long-forgotten artefacts of rare beauty. If this is true, then the addition of electronic elements to her sound here suggests Godmother to almost be like a set of vintage photographs that have been digitally restored. It might not be enough to move her out of the musical shadows (a place she may well feel content to stay) but it shows her capable of pursuing idiosyncratic alternative paths while consolidating her position as a distinctive, singular artist.