Music / Premieres
Isobel Caldwell - Duty Of Care
Words by Francis Tait
Thursday 27th October, 2022

Smooth as butter and warm as toast, Isobel Caldwellʼs debut album Duty Of Care is a head-first dive into human frailty and lifeʼs uncertainties thatʼll pick you up, dust you off and send you back out there for another crack.
When I think of the feelings evoked when listening to my favourite folk songwriters, I think of a warm and comforting feeling similar to that of seeing an old friend, even if the songs themselves arenʼt always coming from the happiest, most comforting of places. Within Duty Of Care, Hong Kong-born, Narrm-based singer/songwriter Isobel Caldwell embraces those feelings of vulnerability and wears them like a badge of honour. Built around recurring themes of self-acceptance and growth, Duty Of Care is as reassured a debut album as youʼll ever hear, finding strength in lifeʼs uncertainties and in turn inviting you to celebrate them, warts and all.

From the very first few seconds of droning double bass and fingerpicked guitar that could easily be half as long, but happily isnʼt, Duty Of Care sets the scene for the 48 minutes to come. The lush, take-your-time arrangements of Isobel and producer Imogen Cygler across album openers ‘Most the Timeʼ and ‘Maryʼ echo much of the ethos of the album. Sparing bass playing and subtle washes of electric guitar drift around steady, hypnotic nylon string guitar, leaving plenty of room for Isobelʼs entrancing vocal style and empathetic lyricism to wrap its arms around you and draw you in.

Tracks like ‘Snails In The Sageʼ and mid-album highlight ‘A Dozen Dogsʼ place Isobelʼs superb melody crafting on a pedestal and Imogenʼs production does just the right amount in bringing it to life. Others like second single ‘Across The Hillʼ and ‘Untanglingʼ use restraint as a tool, with little more than Isobelʼs vocals and guitar needed to captivate you. Iʼm not even going to talk about first single/ album closer ‘Tiger Stripes’; just go get absolutely lost in it and do your best not to cry in front of your housemates.

Even the ambient, wordless ‘Interludeʼ right in the middle of Duty Of Care feels like an invitation to take a couple of minutes for yourself.

Duty Of Care is the sort of album thatʼll have you wanting to get up and grab life with both hands afterwards, but will also have you feeling at peace with yourself if you choose not to. I expect youʼll be finding it on my record player quite a bit after a bad day at work. There had better be vinyl, Isobel.

Duty of Care is out everywhere today. Catch Isobel and her band launching the album tonight at The Gasometer with Clover Blue and Standard American Diet - grab a ticket here.