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VASHTI BUNYAN

Prog Folk • United Kingdom


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Vashti Bunyan biography
The English singer/songwriter VASHTI BUNYAN was briefly a darling of the British branch of the folk revival of the late sixties before fading to obscurity for nearly three decades.

Bunyan began her music career after a brief stint as a student at Oxford, leaving school to travel to America and discover the sounds of the folk revival and particularly Bob Dylan, the Farinas and other artists in the Cambridge and Boston music scene. Between 1965 and 1967 she returned to London and recorded a pair of singles under the direction of famed London producer Andrew Loog Oldham and later released an album with the iconic American folk producer Joe Boyd, augmented in the studio by various members of the INCREDIBLE STRING BAND and FAIRPORT CONVENTION as well as the Robert Kirby, best known for his eccentric relationship with and string arrangements for NICK DRAKE on his early records. While her album 'Just Another Diamond Day' was critically praised, Bunyan's music never received the same attention as other more well-known folk singers and she eventually retired to the countryside to spend the next thirty years raising her family and living a life of obscurity.

Thanks to a renewed interest in her music by the likes of folk revivalists DEVENDRA BANHART, ESPERS, PANDA BEAR and others she enjoyed a revival of sorts in the new century, which saw her album remastered and reissued in several countries. Amid appearances on several new generation folk albums Bunyan reentered the studio to record an album of new material in 2005, and released a 2-disc collection of older material in 2007. Bunyan continues to record and appear live today, with a loyal and appreciative following and a popularity that far exceeds that which she enjoyed in her early days.

>> Bio by Bob Moore (aka ClemofNazareth) <<

Vashti Bunyan official website

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Just Another Diamond DayJust Another Diamond Day
Dicristina Stair Builders 2004
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Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind [Vinyl]Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind [Vinyl]
Dicristina Stair 2007
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LookafteringLookaftering
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Imports 2014
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Spinney 2008
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VASHTI BUNYAN shows & tickets


  • Vashti Bunyan at St Pancras Old Church, London on 8 Oct 2014
  • Vashti Bunyan + Saint Saviour at St Pancras Old Church, London on 9 Oct 2014
  • Vashti Bunyan at St Phillip's Church, Salford on 12 Oct 2014
  • Crossing Border Festival on 13 Nov 2014
  • Vashti Bunyan + Blood on a Feather at Jazzhouse, KÝbenhavn K on 18 Nov 2014

VASHTI BUNYAN discography


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VASHTI BUNYAN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.70 | 7 ratings
Just Another Diamond Day
1970
4.00 | 3 ratings
Lookaftering
2004

VASHTI BUNYAN Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

VASHTI BUNYAN Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

VASHTI BUNYAN Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Some Things Just Stick in your Mind (Singles and Demos 1964 to 1967)
2007

VASHTI BUNYAN Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Love Song
1966
0.00 | 0 ratings
Some Things Just Stick in your Mind
2007

VASHTI BUNYAN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Just Another Diamond Day by BUNYAN, VASHTI album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.70 | 7 ratings

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Just Another Diamond Day
Vashti Bunyan Prog Folk

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The story of Vashti is a pretty incredible one and i'd suggest you read Finnforest's review for those details. This album was released in 1970 and was really ignored by everyone it would seem in the music business. It's one of those albums though that has been successful after the fact. As I looked around the internet for opinions on this recording it was clear that the majoriy who have heard it rate it highly. Her voice is delicate and the songs are about everyday life. There is a real innocence to this. I liked what one person said on the RYM site : "I've never felt so human". Definitely a Folk album and for me that's part of the problem as I just don't have the patience or like for it. Just my tastes of course.

There are instruments used that I would normally not be into like fiddle, Irish harp, mandolin and banjo. Although everything is reserved here. Tough to pick a top three although "Rose Hip November" stands out with that uplifting sound. Also "Window Over The Bay" is one I can relate to as i've dreamed of living on the bay where I live. I could never afford it though unless I won the lottery. I like the words to this one. The tough part is finding the third track. Maybe the title song with those vocal melodies.

If you are even remotely into Folk you should do yourself a favour and check this out.

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 Lookaftering by BUNYAN, VASHTI album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.00 | 3 ratings

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Lookaftering
Vashti Bunyan Prog Folk

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars Vashti Bunyan sings with a measured beauty that is quite stirring to the soul with an uplifting melancholy edge. The sounds of her album is perhaps the quietest most serene music on the planet. So startling is the tranquillity that it transports you to a place of long forgotten memories and reflection. The songs are short and come with Vashti's acoustic or the piano playing. At times a flute/mellotron augments the beauty or a violin transcending the splendour of solitude. Vashti's voice is mixed to the front of the sound so that she can evoke emotive whispers or softened singing, in an admirably relaxed repose. It is rather surprising how apt the rabbit illiustration on the album cover becomes as it seems to evoke solitude and a sense of searching for meaning.

"Lookaftering" begins with 'Lately' with the peaceful swaying acoustic and Vashti's measured patient quiet introspection. Her voice is high octave folk singing but she hardly uses any pressure and lets her voice simply float along the melodies that are always pretty. A violin augments the sound appropriately played at intervals across the acoustics and a delightful mellotron.

'Here Before' features mesmirising lyrics; "once I had a child he was wilder than moonlight", and Vashti's acoustic is joined by nice keyboard symphonics, the chimes are pleasant and all has a heavenly atmosphere. The way Vashti hardly sings but whispers is always endearing and her octave range is always a pleasure to experience; a layer of beauty upon beauty, relaxing and floating on an enchanting dreamscape.

'Wayward' is enveloped in the sweet beauty of Vashti and an acoustic. Her voice is mixed to the front and very quiet. There is sadness in the mood but still her gorgeous tones are uplifting.

'Hidden' begins with the piano very gently played as Vashti whispers sweet somethings about a lost love. Her voice is breathy and full of regret. It is sad but quite moving. The flute where she sings "I'm with you" is beautiful.

'Against the Sky' has Vashti softly playing her acoustic and her voice is gentle and lovely. "The hill behind the old house I can trace it with my finger against the sky I sleep still," evokes childhood innocence. "Some evening skies were yellow" she sings but wonders what happened to the other colours like green. The harp sound in this is wonderful, I always love the use of harp in folk music. Christina Sonneman is one of the best harp players and this is reminiscent of her style, and the vocals are reminiscent of Mary Duff but sung very softly.

'Turning Backs' begins with piano tinkling a pretty phrase and then joined by violin layers. Vashti sings as the music builds with clarinet and sparkling strings. This one has a very ethereal feel.

'If I Were' is another soft texture and 'Same But Different' is wonderful. I love the lilting flute intro and guitar. Vashti's breathy singing stays on a one note chord and a violin comes in with haunting melodies. The atmosphere is darker with a ghostly feel and that crying violin.

'Brother' follows with sweet vocals and then 'Feet of Clay' with a very nice melody played by flute and guitar, a definitive highlight. Vashti croons sadly "don't waste this dance on me".

'Wayward Hum' is the last song, and one of the best, with Vashti acoustic finger picking her nylon string guitar, humming almost to herself. Max Richter on the glockenspiel is a nice touch towards the end, sounding like a little girl on the toy xylophone while her mother plays quietly. The melody is the same as 'Wayward' but it works as a type of closure to the album.

At the end of this album one feels relaxed and has a moment to reflect on the tranquillity. This album brings the listener down to a point where they can shut out the noise of traffic and the busy world. It is essential that albums like these exist, with simple musicianship and floating on melodies, sung from the heart and stirring to the soul.

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 Lookaftering by BUNYAN, VASHTI album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.00 | 3 ratings

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Lookaftering
Vashti Bunyan Prog Folk

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Joanna Newsom and Devendra Banhart join Vashti on her follow-up

Vashti Bunyan is a wonderful artist but not a prolific one. As previously noted in my review of her debut, she comes with a very cool backstory. Discovered by the Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham she had a brief pop career in swinging London before pulling one of the most authentic disappearing acts since Obi-Wan. Her and her partner Robert hitched a cart to a horse and headed for the rural Scottish coast, taking two years to get there.

"It was two summers travelling from London with the horse - and the worst of the winter between spent in the Lake District. No other way could I have learned about life the way I did. Living outside most of the time - cooking on fires on the ground, washing in rivers and burns, walking miles everyday and watching the landscape slowly change through industrial and rural England to the moorlands and highlands of Scotland."

She then returned to London one more time and quickly recorded a legendary album called "Just Another Diamond Day" before casting music aside and splitting for good. For almost three decades the pair and their kids lived a 19th century bucolic existence (see my review of the debut if you want to read more about that period). Then, after relocating to Edinburgh and separating from Robert, Vashti went online and discovered that her long lost album from 1970 had struck a chord with many people and was being traded for big bucks by collectors. Roundabout 2000 she was able to see "Diamond Day" reissued on CD, and the overwhelmingly positive response made her start writing again for the first time in three decades. As a new generation of "acid folkies" was beginning to emerge, Bunyan became something of an icon to new artists like Devendra Banhart, Animal Collective, and Joanna Newsom, all of whom have become friends of Bunyan. Banhart and Newsom even appear as guests on this album. And so the unimaginable happened....35 years after the young Vashti released "Just Another Diamond Day", she followed it up with her second album in 2005, entitled "Lookaftering."

"My life changed radically 13 years ago when I moved from the farm where my eldest children grew up and came back to the city with my youngest. I left behind the Diamond Day dream in a way. I think I don't regret it---but then when I listen to the songs I hear that I do miss that old life. Only enough to write about it---not to go back to it."

The music of "Lookaftering" is every bit as engrossing as "Diamond Day" and I just fall into her world. Soothing, relaxing, and comforting is her music, even when the lyrical themes are not so sunny. Bunyan's voice is so clear and unchanged it sounds as if she recorded this album right after her debut. There has been no deterioration of her voice whatsoever. And once again the songs are ethereal and enchanting as an Elvin-spun tale. The differences however are important. First, the lyrics are more serious and mature, the dreamy girl of "Diamond Day" replaced by a wiser woman. Second, the songs are much more meticulously tended by Vashti herself and given great depth by the keyboard contribution of Max Richter. On the debut she sang and played, then turned over the arrangements to the capable Joe Boyd before heading back to the farm for good. The results were great but she would say that Boyd made instrumental choices she would not have. That is not the case here. Here she is very involved and the music is more fleshed out and fully realized. Last, she has always disavowed being categorized as a folk singer, especially a traditional one, and today considers herself an alternative artist, not a folkie. That may be a minor distinction to many people but it is important to Bunyan.

The first two tracks discuss children, keeping them safe, celebrating them, to the sound of Bunyan's ever-present acoustic and a string section, along with glockenspiel and harmonium giving a sort of "wide-eyed" wonder to the sound. Banhart adds a bit of down-home guitar to "Wayward" as she proclaims "all I ever wanted was a road without end." Piano and recorder adorn the stately "Hidden", framing Bunyan's intimate yearnings so nicely. "Against the Sky" features Joanna Newsom on harp and is a real highlight. The harp is beautiful working with Vashti's guitar and some mellotron, while the lyrics just blow my mind with their mysterious beauty. I'm not much of a lyrics guy typically but man I love these words. "Turning backs" again features the piano and mellotron of Max Richter and some dulcimer, more hairs standing on end here. Newsom and Richter combine harp and keys again on "If I Were", a short, sad piece about two people parting ways. "Brother" would appear to be an ode to her late brother John, where she talks of returning to their childhood home, and how it is strange that everything is the same except he's not there. That hits home. "Feet of Clay" is perhaps the album's most impressive arrangement, with Richter's repeating piano motif giving Vashti's verses a sense of time passing, as strings swell up behind them, and a bit of oboe and French horn are carefully placed. Amazingly poignant. The album closes with a lovely intimate moment, a recording of Vashti rehearsing "Wayward" while just humming, unaware they were recording her. It's the perfect closer to this collection and brings us full circle, sounding almost like an outtake of "Diamond Day." The simple drawings and photographs in the booklet are also fantastic, so much more meaningful to me than most of the homogeneous "prog-rock art" that all looks the same on so many new releases.

"Because I'm loving what I'm doing right now so much, I'm beginning to realise what an idiot I was all these years by turning my back on music. I just really, really wish all these wonderful people had been around when "Diamond Day" was made. They would have understood what I was trying to do much better than most of my contemporaries ever did."

An admitted Vashti fanboy, I consider "Lookaftering" nearly the masterpiece of "Diamond Day." In fact, those who consider "Diamond Day" a bit too gentle and precious may find "Lookaftering" a bit more grounded and substantive. The debut has a magical story and looks forward to a life ahead, while this one is a gorgeous reflection back on the beauty and fragility of life. Together they are fascinating bookends of Bunyan and two of my most treasured discs. If you ever read this Vashti, thank you so much. (and please, record another album!)

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 Just Another Diamond Day by BUNYAN, VASHTI album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.70 | 7 ratings

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Just Another Diamond Day
Vashti Bunyan Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars Given how few people actually heard this the first time around, I'm guessing that its resurgence in the last decade is not nostalgia based, which is to Bunyan's credit. Nonetheless, I feel that a wistful if inaccurate reconstruction of childhood memories might have been my ticket to greater appreciation. This is a pretty and precious recording in which the artists's delicate voice seems no match for even a studio breeze. It possesses a beauty all its own chiefly in the lyrical imagery and the childlike meters, the former reminiscent of STRAWBS "Dragonfly" and the latter of, even more than the inevitable NICK DRAKE comparisons, GORDON LIGHTFOOT's contemporary masterwork "Sit Down Young Stranger" aka "If you could read my mind". Her voice is somewhere between JONI MITCHELL and MAIRE BRENNAN of CLANNAD.

The opening and title cut is one of the highlights, thanks to one of the more memorable melodies and the sprightly recorder arrangements courtesy of ROBERT KIRBY, and "Come Wind Come Rain" and "Hop Along Bess" shine for similar reasons. On the more somber end is the equally effective "Rose Hip November", while the extra tracks, particularly "Love Song", suggest a talent that could have hit the charts a lot harder a year or two earlier, when idealism had not yet faded. The problem in general is that the material sounds no better on the 10th listen than on the first. Enjoyable, yes, but also without any edge whatsoever.

For a certain type of fan, "Just Another Diamond Day" represents an escape to a simpler more bucolic time that trumps the utter lack of progressiveness. I can appreciate that, but, with all due respect and with no intent to tarnish, I would rather walk down the aisle with the better works of the aforementioned artists.

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 Just Another Diamond Day by BUNYAN, VASHTI album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.70 | 7 ratings

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Just Another Diamond Day
Vashti Bunyan Prog Folk

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars A bucolic dream, a lost treasure, a must for Nick Drake fans

The story of Vashti Bunyan is one of the most incredible in all of music. A London art school drop-out, Bunyan had the luck to meet and impress Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham. She recorded some singles during her brief flirtation with swinging London but was disheartened with the way things were going. So rather than hang out and stagnate with the counterculture nonsense around her, she pulled a disappearing act that makes Syd Barrett look like an attention-seeker. In the summer of '68, Bunyan and her partner Robert hitched a horse to a cart and left London for the Isle of Skye on the Scottish coast. It took them two years to get there, having to stop every 20 miles to shoe the horse. They were searching for a rural throwback existence, a traditional life in a quiet place to raise their children, to grow their food. They would find it, but not before fate intervened to make Vashti the "Godmother of the modern psych-folk scene" according to some.

"traveling towards a Hebridean sun to build a white tower in our heads begun"

Over the course of their two year trek into the rural past Bunyan had been writing songs about their horse drawn journey and about the life they imagined when they arrived. Legendary producer Joe Boyd heard about this and managed to coax Bunyan back to London for one week of sessions with members of The Incredible String Band and Fairport Convention, along with Robert Kirby who had scored Nick Drake's album. Only 500 copies of "Just Another Diamond Day" were pressed, and according to Joe Boyd only about 150 were sold. Bunyan was upset that the album was so clearly ignored and unceremoniously threw music over her shoulder. She would not record or perform again for three decades as she retreated to an idyllic private life of raising her three children in rural Scotland and Ireland. She vanished from the music scene more successfully than Syd Barrett did and by all accounts had an incredible adventure. What were those years like?

"Cleaning out and lighting the old kitchen range in the morning, getting the kids to the school bus down the long bumpy track, cooking huge meals for us and all the people who worked with us, mountains of washing, scrubbing the floors, getting in trouble with the next door farmer either for one of the dogs wandering through his sheep or my son riding his motorbike through the new crops (both of which I still feel guilty about), picking up the kids from the school bus, more cooking, making bread, chopping wood, cleaning, polishing, despairing of ever getting it all done. Every mealtime was filled with political discussion and good-natured arguing, and every evening would be spent in front of a big log fire." -Vashti, to Pitchfork Magazine

"I had no idea what Skye or the Hebrides would be like, but I had always yearned for the freedom of the countryside and had romantic notions about farms and farmers and shepherds. By time I reached the Hebrides I had learned about the realities of farming and was an aspiring vegetarian. The art scene I had left behind in London had never appealed to me. I was looking for something different and certainly found it in the enormous wisdom and humour, and the story-telling, amongst the more elderly members of the island communities. I was so overwhelmed by respect for the ancient music I heard there that my own songs seemed irrelevant." -Vashti, to ArtCornwall.org

But as Bunyan spent the middle of her life in this authentic fashion something strange happened back in the music world. Old copies of her album were discovered by the likes of Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, and the new acid-folk fans, and the album started to trade at auction for huge money. So in the late 90s with her children grown and having moved to Edinburgh, Bunyan was inspired to return to the music scene. She finds it ironic that her own peers rejected her music in 1970 but that she was given a second chance by people young enough to be her children decades later. I think part of this can be credited to the unique and "real" feeling of the music. This wasn't contrived hippie pining by rockers who would sing one thing in the day time and spend the nights enjoying the drug scene. It wasn't an album theme. These were the heartfelt dreams of a young woman who wanted a real life, and got one.

So what does the music sound like? It's just Vashti. Her voice is ghostly frail and hauntingly beautiful, so soft as to often be little more than a whisper. She may briefly conjure early Joni Mitchell in your mind but not for long. She is accompanied by her acoustic guitar and recorder, mandolin, strings, and words that reflect a life of family and work ethic, fresh air and natural beauty. The songs are very short and seemingly childlike but this is not "kid music" in any shallow sense. After laying down her vocals, she had little to do with the mixing and was actually not happy with the folkish arrangements at the time, she did not consider herself a traditional folkie, but something more unique. She had different ideas about how it should sound but lacked the assertiveness to get involved, though today she recalls it more fondly than she did at the time.

In my opinion she frets too much, I think Boyd knew exactly what he was doing here and I think the results are about perfect. There is a personality that is completely original and her own-in fact it is not really true to call this psych folk or acid folk because it never panders to the drug scene contingent, Bunyan wasn't into drugs. So while it is praised by acid-folkies don't expect that which is overly weird. Don't expect the craziness of Comus by any means! For some this will be twee and far too delicate, one review I saw said "It makes Nick Drake sound like Lou Reed." You must be willing to dim the lights and just lay back and chill. Expect to be told stories about traveling and feeding the animals by a young woman who will captivate you, as you realize that immediately after she sang these songs she walked away from music for decades. It almost never happened at all and how lucky that it did.

"Vashti's songs may seem unreal to urbanized listeners but they should listen with open hearts and minds. I have never known anyone whose music is so completely a reflection of their life and spirit." -Joe Boyd, producer

Very far from prog-rock, Diamond Day is nonetheless an essential relic to me. I love the fact that this is the sincere soundtrack to a life more than a high minded concept. It may be a collection of simple lullabies and soft observations, but it remains a timeless, touching experience.

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