As pointed out by Mike, Karen Elson's new album Ghost Who Walks is streaming here at the Guardian.
For the cynics among you, no, I probably would never have heard it if it wasn't for her husband, Jack White. But having heard it, I like it. I will be buying it on Tuesday, in fact.
Although Karen lives in Nashville and sings in an American accent, being British she lacks that dreadful whine that most white American folkies bring to the mic. I don't know which it is, a cultural difference or a hearing preference, but when American folkies tell me how bad life is, I switch them off and hope their remedies include shooting themselves, but when English (or Irish or Scottish or black American or even Chinese or Tuvan) folkies do it, I drink a sad toast and wish for all our lives to get better. (Dylan and Neil Young get to be honorary Tuvans, here.) The self-consciously depression-era songs I find less successful than the (pseudo)autobiographical songs, but she'll learn as she goes along. Her voice is so pure and haunting she makes even trite lines sound intriguing. In a way she's a latter-day Sandy Denny, and I know that's powerful mojo to spray around.
It's not that I understand where she's coming from - I'm from a close analog of Oldham and understand why it's a hell hole, but I'm a foot shorter and twenty pounds heavier, and no one ever called me the ghost who walks at school. She just moves me.
I love this modern idea of streaming albums. I've listened to this three times through, which is enough to know that I'd like to buy it. You could never hope to hear something like this on the radio these days, and even if they played the lead track, the radio would never play the weaker tracks. Streaming gives you a chance to get over the awkwardness of the first listen in your own house, on your own terms and on your own schedule. I listened to Sea of Cowards for a week on NPR, even though the vinyl was winging its way to me at the time, and I've enjoyed this one too.
Hopefully the people who authorize streaming will at some point sit bolt upright during an otherwise undisturbed sleep and think, "Of the people who torrented the album from Pirate Bay, all the ones who liked it eventually bought it, and those who listened three times and didn't buy it wouldn't have bought it anyway. Pirate Bay cost me nothing."
Because that's the way it works.