It's like something out of Hans Christian Andersen: A shy teenage girl is discovered by the manager of the Rolling Stones and billed as the "female Bob Dylan" -- but renounces the world of pop to trek across the English countryside in a wagon. Along the way, she makes a record that rots in obscurity for thirty years before being rediscovered and crowned one of the greatest British albums of all time.
There's no reason to assume that the fairy tale of Vashti Bunyan would have a fairy-tale ending. But Lookaftering, her first release since 1970's epochal Just Another Diamond Day, is every inch as rich and radiant as its predecessor. A collaboration with composer Max Richter -- who plays John Cale to Bunyan's Nico circa Desertshore -- the disc also enlists Joanna Newsome and Devendra Banhart to embellish its lush, pastoral folk. Acoustic guitars and piano are woven into stark strings and woodwinds, but it's Bunyan's voice, shaking with decades of wisdom and loss, that dominates even as it enchants. Sometimes fantasies really do come true -- but rarely are they crystallized with the hushed, soulful magic of Lookaftering.