Just Another Diamond Day, the 1970 debut from British folk singer Vashti Bunyan, hibernated for 30 years, gaining a tiny cult following, until its late-'90s re-release. There was no hibernation for Bunyan, however. She was busy living: feeding, gaining, and losing family on Scotland's Hebridean islands. Her sophomore album may sound cut from the same peasant cloth as the debut, but it contains hard-won maturity.
The palette of Lookaftering is remarkably similar to Diamond Day: Bunyan's hypnotic acoustic plucking, elegantly backed by harp, strings, wispy organ, and crystalline piano, here played by such acolytes as Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom. The difference is in the strokes. Where the songs she wrote as a young woman were pastoral, Lookaftering is down to earth. Gone are the storybook characters and countrified coziness, replaced by bittersweet, first-person thoughts on motherhood, death, and distance. The album's finest tune is "Feet of Clay," in which Bunyan sings to someone just out of reach -- "Don't think about me dreaming here, I will see you fly away/While in my head you hold me near and pull me off my feet of clay" -- but she sounds uplifted by what she sees, rather than saddened by the lack of contact. Kindred spirit Nick Drake did himself in before gaining the wisdom of age. There's much to be said for living, and rarely is it said with such soul-nurturing beauty.