Maz Totterdell – Graduating The School of Folk

I thought I would trot out this review from earlier in the year, as originally published on . Reading back, this is one of those reviews that I am rather chuffed with, and also still agree with. Listening to Maz’s album over a longer period of time has not dulled my enjoyment of it. In fact it has on many levels improved. So I suggest you go and get a copy.

Like it or loathe it, it is fair to say folk music in its many forms is undergoing something of a renaissance on both sides of the Atlantic. It is a genre of music that has multiple strands and great depth, whether you like the wistful, harmony drenched melancholy of Americans Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver or the more dramatic acoustic thunder of Britain’s Mumford & Sons or upcoming stars Dry The River. Solo artists are also on the ascendancy, led especially by strong female acts such as Laura Marling. But it is only recently that folk has appealed to a wider and younger audience by adding contemporary elements from other genres to the traditional basics and consequently getting  a shiny new pigeon-hole label ,“Nu-Folk”, and a considerable variety of styles and sounds. Stepping away from the old, stuffy image of folk musicians has resulted in a new generation of young singer songwriters feeling comfortable enough to get involved and broaden the genres appeal.

One of the more surprising new artists to emerge is 15 year old Devonian Maz Totterdell, proving that you do not need to be a middle-aged, pipe-smoking, comfy shoe wearer to create beautiful folk music. As one would expect for someone of her tender years, the sound is fresh and contemporary, taking the traditional acoustic sound and mixing with a more modern, pop tinged sensibility and up to date subjects that has already had her championed by most of BBC 6Music’s DJ roster.

However, that perhaps is where expectations finish being met. The rest is a surprise. Her voice is stunning and versatile and sounds an awful lot older than you would expect. It is able to convey a range of emotions and to sound lived in through a wearying life, whilst all the same containing that up to date approach, with contemporary language and rhythms and a colloquial, accented delivery, very reminiscent of Kate Nash. And musically this is a real smorgasbord of instruments, sounds and styles, guitar leading the way one minute, piano the next with back up from horns, violin and everything else in between, all arranged flawlessly. But always there is that chirpy, melodic, sound, with its upbeat, rolling rhythms and a strong pop music sensibility. Folk you can sing and dance along to perhaps?

The scary thing here is how much time she will have to develop her undoubted talents. Her age is currently her key draw, with an unfair, almost freak-show kind of appeal that she is certainly not trading on, but is also perhaps a negative, with an undoubted backlash waiting in the wings, down in part to the music media, who are bound to develop a fascination with her age (see, even I mentioned it earlier). But there is no naivety in her lyrics or the musicality of the album. The market for young, talented musicians singing thoughtful songs about love and life’s trials is a crowded one and it would be easy for her to be dismissed as a one trick pony by those who have not listened to her already prolific output. But that would be doing this album a real disservice, as it is a brilliant, compelling, interesting and enjoyable listen that deserves to reach a much wider audience. Give it a spin and forget about her date of birth.

Sweep is out now on Series 8 Records.

More on Maz at or


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