Personnel: Laura Marling (vocals, guitar); Pete Randall , Blake Mills (guitar); Rob Moose (strings); Matt Ingram, Matt Chamberlain (drums).
Audio Mixer: Greg Koller.
Recording information: Berkley Sound Studios, Santa Monica; East West Studios; NRG Studios; Randall Court Studios.
Arranger: Rob Moose.
Semper Femina, a Latin phrase borrowed from Virgil translating roughly to "always a woman," was tattooed on Laura Marling's body long before it became the title of her sixth album. Like her adopted motto, this striking set gives the impression of a concept that was left to simmer a while before revealing itself in song. Initially intended as an exercise in writing about women from a male's perspective, Marling soon found that the feelings she was expressing were, in reality, her own, and Semper Femina became the work of a woman writing intimately about women. Crafted in her adopted home of Los Angeles and produced by Blake Mills (Alabama Shakes, Jim James), it's a wonder of musical subtlety, backing off from the cinematic electric desert-scapes of 2015's Short Movie and approaching the acoustic delicacy of earlier albums from a newfound perspective. A classic confessional songwriter, the British expat has found here the perfect balance of wounded introspection and confident observation, getting to the core of the matter with poetic candor on standouts like "The Valley" and the masterful "Next Time," the latter of which is easily one of the strongest cuts of her career. As with much of Marling's work, especially during her California period, the ghost of Joni Mitchell -- another transplanted flower who bloomed in Laurel Canyon -- can be heard on the richly melodic yet beautifully sparse fingerpicked ballad "Noell." Elsewhere, Marling's bluesy half-spoken incantations propel smart slow-burners like "Wild Fire" and album-closer "Nothing Not Nearly," whose unique coda quotes Bach's iconic "Cello Suite No. 1" before literally closing the studio door and fading out to birdsong. Having entered the limelight early, the 27-year-old singer/songwriter has now settled into a comfortable groove to on this finely honed career highlight. ~ Timothy Monger
Rolling Stone - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "Producer Blake Mills highlights Marling's guitar while adding his own. But her own voice just grows stronger, literally and figuratively..."
Uncut - "Virgil and Rilke were referenced but, as ever, the gifted singer-songwriter carried her erudition lightly."
Magnet - "On SEMPER FEMINA, she complements her burnished vocals with a solid display of fingerpicking prowess marked by showers of arpeggios and bluesy notes full of sliding overtones."
NME (Magazine) - 5 stars out of 5 -- "SEMPER FEMINA has an intensely personal feel....What's always shone brightest in Marling's music is her Leonard Cohen-like acuity, and that shows no sign of abating here."
Paste (magazine) - "[T]he characters in Marling's songs feel like real people: often restless, frequently viewed from afar and almost uniformly mysterious in their motivations. Few songwriters have written about women quite like this."
Clash (Magazine) - "[M]uch of SEMPER FEMINA finds the songwriter burrowing inwards, an analysis of femininity and womanhood with a profoundly personal edge."