Laura Marling’s “Once I Was an Eagle” Explores the Heart’s Colder Recesses

Courtesy Ribbon Music

Laura Marling
Once I Was an Eagle
Ribbon Music

Is Britain’s Laura Marling the modern Joni Mitchell? Her stellar fourth album underscores the similarities, among them ringing acoustic guitar, insistent vocals that linger on high notes, and cliché-free songwriting rooted in folk-music traditions.

But Marling is nobody’s disciple, and the hour-long Once I Was an Eagle takes its own distinctive head trip in the course of 16 bracing tracks. Songs flow from one into the next like movements of a single suite as she reflects on desire, loneliness and the impulse toward self-realization that inevitably reinforces isolation at the expense of connection. “We are so alone / There’s nothing we can share / You can get me on the telephone / But you won’t keep me there,” she sings in “Master Hunter.” On “Pray for Me,” she declares, “I will not love, I want to be alone.”

While such sentiments might seem self-indulgent in lesser hands, she’s a reliably stirring chronicler of the heart’s colder recesses.