It all started for us in the front bar with The Herron Brothers; we were running a little late and did not settle for too long. What we heard was encouraging, bright and a cheerful pop act that had character. From what we have seen they are like Mirror Universe Gallagher brothers bringing the cheer to Derby in their own rather than projecting an image of fighting you for your bag of chips, like a seagull. Independent music is great and this band is carving a place with some cool music.
Before moving on we have to plug their clip of “Babu”, what a great, joyous listen.
Then, from nearer our neck in the woods, Blair Dunlop arrives from sunny Chesterfield. Dunlop is a good entry to ticketed part of the festival with a mix of mellow, insightful in his acoustic performance. He credits Jim Moray as being a big influence (which seems to be a theme emerging in this festival so far) and, like Moray, he has found a plethora of interesting topics to tackle be it recent historicals or more obscure interests, (The expenses scandal, a Porsche, and condiments).
Dunlop is like a rag and bone man, he has a bit of something for everybody. For us we were particular enamoured by “Sweet on you” (a bad relationship, but a good melody) which has a hook as good as Arturo Gatti, “In the day I think you are trouble, in the night I’m sweet on you”. We also enjoyed the time travelling nature of “Spices From the East” which brought back a historical talk we had on a guide tour of the Salt Mines near Krakow. Fascinating, beautiful place and also a metaphor-filled spice rack of good lyrics once again. Check out the link below for the previous release for “Sweet On You”.
Leveret don’t really need much introduction for those swimming in the pool of traditional music. For many, they are probably “all about the playing”; as they said themselves on stage, “We don’t talk much”. They actually talked more than you might expect with this sentiment, but there were definitely some interesting stories from the road alongside the continuing excellent musicianship.
We’ve seen them a couple of times and hadn’t been aware of the changing roles they take during their sets depending on how they feel. Such fluidity must come from a place of prior technical excellence and practice. We loved the abundance of hornpipes, including the 3/2 ones such as “The Good Old Way” which is the tune that always instantly springs to mind when we hear their name. A beautiful change of pace was the set of airs, “The Height of Cader Idris” with “Jack a Lent”. The first tune certain conveys a kind of majesty within it’s performance, “Jack a Lent” has serious Spring overtones and probably less of the implied dark contradiction in this rite than you would imagine. If you want a listen, take a listen below:
An impressive entry to the Folk Weekend covering a few different bases in the musical tradition. There is a lot to like here and much more coming up for the Derby Folk Weekend https://www.derbyfolkfestival.co.uk/
Their ears and hearts nested in the traditional, ‘The Wilderness Yet’ provide an album with many brilliant, emotional responses to nature.
Away from the bustle, in a secret garden within the leafy settlement of Sheffield, we get the glimpse of a band bringing their debut to the fore.
“The Wilderness Yet” comprises of Rowan Piggott (fiddle), Phillippe Barnes (guitar/flute) and Rosie Hodgson (vocals), a trio of South Yorkshire folk artists entering the “wilderness” that is a folk world full of surprises and joys; they are accompanied on tracks by guest musicians Ewan Carson (bodhran), Charlie Piggott (button accordion) and Johnny Ringo (bodhran). The result is a swirling, strong entry into the genre that plays a hand of cards that will suit long time enthusiasts with it’s traditional leanings, but also excite by keeping some new songs up their sleeve.
What goes a good way towards the atmosphere of the disc (that helps carry it along) is the artwork, which we have to start by praising. The artist Adam Oehlers (http://www.adamoehlersillustration.com/) brings together animal and tree in a beautiful, coppery unity. At this time of year in particular the golden hues of the leaves, the branches and grasses (with laws unto themselves) and the wondrous spectacle of the inside illustration are calling to the wild, calling to the intricate system of nature. When you pick up the disc, it is a sensory, auspicious start.
This scene setter leads into the light dance and explicit harkening to the season in the first track “The Beauties of Autumn”. Inspired by a walk outside Halsway Manor (definitely a semi-wild spectacle) in the early morning, the track feels like the crinkles around your wellies during an unexpected dry spell. Quietly celebratory it marks the beginning of the album with it’s positive, warm and fresh sound.
Speaking of warm beginnings, “In a fair country” is a sweet, fruity medley of blackcurrant and apple in a rich chutney that could be part of of an oaty breakfast. Sang traditionally and with a chirpy harmony, it is a good track that lends to your ears it’s familiarity in structure and character. We mention fruit as Hodgson’s voice reminds of gooseberries, a hint of sharpness that tingles the soggy tart pastry. It all works well and there is a good mingle with Piggott and Barnes’ who lay a deeper, essential mossy covering to the track. As a song which laments for the loss of trees it is close to our heart (particularly with the previous years’ battles around tree felling in the Steel City).
It is definitely an album which looks to the natural path. Queen and Country is a nice little ditty (and named pun) with its theme of pride, bees and the parallels with the commitment to the cause. Previously part of a collection from EFDSS about bees in 2018 (www.songhive.co.uk) this is very welcome here. A joyful song combining a humble self-appreciation and joy in one’s place (as the subject refers to themselves as a labourer), it is like a mug of tea as the Summer winds out, an understated comfort that is universal.
We love the lower, heavier notes that precede the group’s cover of Bogle’s “Song of the Whale”, a song about the beguilement of fisherman at the sound of the humpback 200 years ago. Adding a dynamism and rumble to the entrance is a nice contrast to the lighter lyrics. Stripping out the prominence of the original’s guitar for a nautically-turned viola d’amore and flute is a good choice as it brings more otherworldliness to the song. As a sailor you might think that the sound has come through the veil of the world itself.
Another fine song that errs towards the darker is “Of Men Who’ll Never Know”. Calling towards the darkening of the world there is a beautiful expected starkness and stillness to this Swedish Love Song. Mournful and disarming, the bleak end of things comes and with the gentle rattle of the accompanying instruments. For an album with is mostly light and springy, it is an unexpected diversion which adds a grim ink to this chapter of the album (but is none the worse for it).
Overall, “The Wilderness Yet” is a fine album themed around nature and people’s experiences of it be it quiet joy, strange wonder, fearfulness or a merry dance alongside. The a cappella numbers are stirring, the original tracks clever and the inclusion of Scandi music is a very good one. Together as a package of theme, music, song and art it is as one. Well mixed (Piggott) and mastered (Sam Proctor), the album finds the right places to shine it’s spotlight be it the vocals, the gentle tap of the bodhran or the bright fiddle. It is rooted quite nicely in the the traditional form and has some lovely original additions to it’s body, like a shapely orchid emerging from rainforest bark.
If you would like to purchase or find more information on the band, go to www.thewildernessyet.com and check out this video below.
Breathlessly broad yet uniting; Pound’s love letter to the European idea and its people touches the soul.
Released 8th May (Will Pound Lulubug Records).
Will Pound’s Art’s Council funded work is an unbridled joy filled with light and cheers from every corner of your favourite continental bar. Much like our favourite A L’Imaige Nostre-Dame in Brussels, it is classic in its appeal and with grace contains a strong selection of beers (sets) to warrant it’s reputation amongst those that stop to admire the decor.
More like The World’s Fair then your local continental market, Pound et al. make the call which brings all the winds of the Continent here and somewhere in its veins it carries a regal (but not austere) character that sets the mind racing. It is unashamedly a political album in the sense that the intention of the artist seems to be to showcase the strength of unity of the EU and the commonality of the musical identities throughout Europe. It accomplishes this by not just highlighting Pound’s own harmonica and melodeon skills (which are considerable) but several other talents are taking part such as Zhivko Zhelev (Dobrudja State Folk Ensemble), Dame Evelyn Glennie, Patsy Reid and Jenn Butterworth amongst many others. It is up to the listener if they wish to bring politics into reviews, but it seems a disservice to brush over Pound’s vision as just a collection of technical sets that have sprung up independent of each other. In the booklet there is a written ode to our European brethren who came to our shores and the contribution they have given, the values and peculiarities they have adopted and Pound sees their value alongside the Countries he reveals in their musical mastery.
Pound takes the styles and tunes of 27 EU member states he has researched and weaves them into a fine tapestry (like those 15th Century Netherland wonders) that starts from the sense of familiarity and builds on this until the tunes become etched in your ears. There is a lot we like here. One of our favourite sets on the album is Kaap’ren Varen/El Candil (Netherlands/Spain). The first sounds like a wild boar frolicking in the undergrowth of a national park, it twists and turns and occasionally puts his head above the roots to watch you with his dark eyes. Used as a children’s song it has a melodic hook which doesn’t so much grab as clasps you with both hands in welcome. As we get to the second part of the set, things get a little brighter, a bit like stepping on a folk revolving platform the tune reflects light all round like a European disco ball. Jenn Butterworth’s guitar chases like a surreptitious, impromptu dance in the amongst the Spanish trees. A great number.
We also recommend Krakowiak/Ellin Polkka (Poland/Finland) as a spinning show of grandeur. Intensive harmonica combines with crisp guitars and sporadic, sweet violin. Linking to the Finland track with a tale of migration the tune becomes more bombastic like a bevy of white swans just beginning to take flight. Characterful and suave it chases you whilst dressed in one fine tuxedo. The second half is in particular a toe-tapping smile and shuffle that would not be out of place in the late moments of the folk festival tent as your family whirls around you in tired happiness. Full of hammering instruments and the bullet-speed spoken word (from Polish poet, Bohdan Piasecki) it pleases, and in it’s urgency it seems to captivates from all angles. The Malta/Estonia track is no less intricate, especially with mind boggling notation on the accordion. Starting as something slower and more familiar it morphs into a free-reed bonanza as it progresses onward and upward. The Greece/Cyprus track is similarly note heavy and a technical joy in a fascinating set which is somehow both positive and somewhat despondent in the same breath, however you want to open your ears to it.
Like a man running from a duel down the back alleys of Bucharest, Romania/Bulgaria is a percussion-led, clattering, happy little romp that then explodes into a historical fantasy with a longboat’s crew moving in time as the drums get louder and the oars pull. In the moment of the track the exquisite, adroit percussion of Eveleyn Glennie seems unmatched in the cosmos. Pound’s harmonica dances alongside in a way that is both light and intricate, a fine addition to the tracks within.
There is plenty here as well; 14 sets of two tunes is generosity, joy and warmth that continues to be memorable long when after the CD laser has stopped. We got swept up in the purpose and the celebration, maybe not everyone will; but we cannot think of anyone in their right mind who could not at the smallest absolute least, appreciate the very fine production and mixing that has been done here (Andie Thompson), each instrument really is an actor in the play at the Vienna State Opera.
In case you couldn’t tell, we were keen on this album. The year is still relatively young, but for us, this is most likely the best album we have heard so far. Pound’s own performance is stellar, his guests are so fresh and green they are positively hacking bamboo shoots in the China wetlands, and the breadth of songs is fantastic. Importantly, the depth and clarity from the sound engineering make everything sound exactly as it should, bravo.
Will Pound’s tour is on hiatus due to the Coronavirus epidemic, we recommend keeping an eye on his website at www.willpound.com.
If your interest is piqued then check out the sample video below:
NOTE: We do not claim or imply ownership over the photos used in this article. If we have been unable to credit you, then please contact us in order to reference you properly at email@example.com .
There is procrastination and procrastination. I mean I have thought about painting the walls in my office a beautiful forest green for weeks (and haven’t managed yet) but sometimes people put off really big things, things that matter. In the world of music there are bands who take their sweet time between album releases. For example Daft Punk took 12 years between “Human After All” and “Random Access Memories” and The Who went from 1982 to 2006 without a further album release in the middle. You have groups like this, then you get Geoff Lakeman.
Geoff Lakeman is a surprisingly low-key figure in a flock of Lakemans, but there are few that will not recognise the name at all. Many are well known folk artists after all including Seth, Sam and Sean Lakeman, all artists very present and productive in their folk projects, but what of Geoff? Well if Lakemans are like springs of musical versatility then perhaps you could say that Geoff is the “limestone” that helped these waters emerge. As father to the others, he is the unsung song,the unseen wind that performed folk as a family for several years only taking it up full-time when retiring from a long, distinguished career in wall-street journalism. So when we think about time taken for artists to release work, few will match Geoff’s record of waiting until his 69th year to put his thoughts on to silver disc.
But it is well worth the wait, our review of it is here and tonight he plays at Village Folk in Chellaston.
Making his way in a rather quiet and unassuming manner, Geoff took the stage to show us what he knows. Perhaps this element of Geoff taking his time to make a disc from his 40 years of performance is what makes listening to Lakeman now a special and privileged event.
It is a refreshing set. Lakeman skips across the Atlantic on more than one occassion bringing us “When the Taters are Dug” and “A Wide, Wide River to Cross.” The former being a delightful ditty about rural life from Maine, the latter is like a spiritual hymn with it’s powerful resonating introspection, the singer reaches far and wide in both location and tone. The crowd are rapt and attentive as he holds the stage for his own, it is a delight to see him touring. Delicate in character Geoff also sang “Someone waiting for me”, a track not found on “After All These Years” and when he comes back to our shores he storms in with an original number “Tie ‘Em Up”, based in history but eerily relevant to today’s issues to do with fishing quotas.
Geoff also plays one of our personal favourites “Rule and Bant” about a couple of tin miners trapped in the ground following an accident in the 1800s. An emotional number, Geoff’s voice is quite elastic here portraying fear, good cheer and mystery. Politics gets as good as a visit as history too with Lakeman playing an excellent cover of “England Green, England Grey” by Reg Meuross instead swapping out the fine guitar work for his own concertina. As becomes apparent, the set has more than a few flashes of politics and history and has an awful lot to say much like the aforementioned Meuross who alongside Geoff are likewise chroniclers of our modern injustices. The joy of seeing Geoff is that he embodies the soul of folk music as he plays alone with a rare concertina quality with no production tricks, echos or otherwise. For many this alone is folk music at it’s purest, like col0ssal veins of iron before they are treated to become stainless steel. People who like their songs about the working man will not be disappointed here.
In person and in performance there is isn’t a big band or a wall of sound but does not suffer for it. It is quite a pertinent observation as Lakeman jokingly tells the audience about the creation of the album. It is pretty entertaining to hear how it came to it’s current shape, especially at one point where Geoff sends a track off to Sean doing the production to add in another instrument and it comes back with more backing and Kathryn Roberts’ voice appearing on the number as a surprise. His laments about being coerced into including the track “Doggie Song”by said Roberts are also entertaining as he becomes concerned about being remembered for the guy who sings about “dog turds”. The risks of musical typecasting is certainly real!
As well as showcasing a large amount of the album’s tracks, Geoff took some delightful sunny detours. He sings “The Seeds of Love”, that old, old classic collected from Cecil Sharp and a jaunty, folky version of Ella Fitzgerald’s “Making Whoopee” that makes really does the earth move. These little moments of sweetness and humour really bring a roundedness to the set elevating it above the preconceptions that some might have about folk music, e.g. that it’s all about death and seriousness.
So in a strong, simple performance whose strength is it’s simplicity and clarity, Lakeman shows us he is an entralling, generous and accomplished host. The set brims with stories, the room sways and sings along in time and the night is awash with a quiet energy that fills the corners of the Lawns Hotel. A great night, a thorough, committed performance and as always a gracious, attentive and warm reception by this night’s organisers, definitely give one of Geoff’s gigs a go.
Check out Geoff’s website for more information about where he is touring here!
Village Folk is one of the best live venues we have been to.. granted we write for them, but we also believe it is a great atmosphere, a welcoming family of people and a special night out, check out their website here to see which folk act they are getting next (they get some of the best) http://www.villagefolk.org/
“Sharp, witty and accomplished there is a class to Roberts & Lakeman’s new album that cannot be measured on any known scientific apparatus”
Producer: Sean Lakeman
Iscream Music Records (2018)
Released 9th March 2018
Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman are indeed a famous duo. Maybe the best known in folk circles due to the two well-deserved wins for “Best Duo” at the Radio 2 Folk Awards. People always presume that the difficulty in fame and music is in the ascent, but surely Lords and Ladies have the added pressure of walking their parapets safely once they have been built. Roberts and Lakeman haven’t installed a hand rail on their high wall though to keep them safe however. They are still dancing, leaning over the outcrop, shouting to the crowd and having a regal ball in plain sight. Their new, fifth album “Personae” is an album of energy showing no lack of original ideas, adventure or showmanship in the realm of fantastical stories.
It all starts with the cover photograph (by Niki Bidgood) which is either an otherworldly rodeo or Roberts is performing a superhero feat of strength with her hips. It is warmly baffling, but in the best possible way. Perhaps as the album is called “personae” it is in the spirit of one “reining” in their outward appearance. The whole scene is like a painting where your eyes cannot be trusted- here you wonder if it is sea or land, it could be either. Whatever the intent, there is a lot of fun to be had here and this definitely spills over to the album. It spills over despite any attempt to keep it contained like a rainbow bucket filled with sparkles.
The CD starts with a belting version of Child Ballad 265, “The Knight’s Ghost”. The duo’s rendition makes it rather a favourite for ourselves. We love traditional and maintaining the way things have been; here the song isn’t just elaborated, it is upgraded. Like most ballads the advice of the story inside is of mixed quality. It does remind how grief can make us take rash actions (as the main subject begins revenge against those that she thinks have done her husband harm) though maybe in everyday life we cannot rely on our late partner’s ghost pointing out our errors. For an opener on an album it is a vivacious interpretation that benefits from clear guitar work and emotive, nuanced vocals. It is quite a powerhouse. Sam Kelly’s additional vocals are characterful and fitting. Overall when thinking of the track, going back to the comparison rodeos, this song is much like that the bucking animal who sprints out at the fire of the gun, it bucks and hops and is determined and fierce. A great opener.
Track 3 “Tribute of Hands” is an original fast-paced number that brings some more of the myth to the table. Inspired by the story of the founding of Antwerp the duo have managed to create something as bloodthirsty and grim as any song from the folk song canon, and it fits especially well. Along other tracks, It forms a backbone of tracks about history; legends with a slight fairytale kick and mischievous attitude that give the CD a fantastical anchor. The woodwind in the middle ramps up the mystery and wonder, it is as much of the song as dry ice is in a Prince music video. It all works very well as it speeds along exuding charm. We need more fantastical stories of this kind being brought to life, though this might mean I would stop reading fairytales.
“The Street of the Cats Who Dance” is our favourite of the quintessential piano-led ballads on the album. At first we thought the song might refer to Istanbul which I believe is heavily linked with cats, but the song actually refers to St. Malo, a town in France. In history the governors had the idea of unleashing hungry dogs at night to enforce a curfew on wrongdoers. Night time curfews and nightwalking in history are fascinating reading (I have a great book to recommend on this), but this aside the cats are dancing because the dogs were eventually banned from being used in this way following a particularly gruesome death. The song is incredibly well mixed, Lakeman has created some good harmonies of Roberts’ voice which shines throughout. The song has stirrings of early Tori Amos which, in my opinion, always gets the senses going. This is no Amos tribute though, it moves it’s feet to it’s own beat. It is hard to imagine who else would have the presence to take this song on in the future, but for now this is the least of our concerns.
There are many other fine tracks on the album. The vaudeville, “poison club” exemplifies the mischievousness, playful nature of two folk artists quite perfectly listing some of the best ways substances to have fun to (or die from). Their cover of Sandy Denny’s “Solo” is pure beautiful intention, and “Old, Old, Old” (about a Seychelles tortoise) could be part of a growing tradition of the duo pointing out remarkable creatures in the world around us. Throughout Lakeman doesn’t miss a beat in the instrumentation. It is a credit to his mixing that the weapon of choice on whatever song he is performing on sounds more like a pumped-up army as opposed to a single man, the depth across the disc even on more poignant numbers like “Independence” is breathtaking.
We cannot fault this album. The disc is thoroughly entertaining diving right in and waving to the crowd; it is a work that will be spinning in our music player for periods of time not yet anticipated. For any sci-fi fans it is fairytale in a similar way to Matt Smith’s run on Doctor Who with it’s kind of cool, slightly unusual but prestigious appearance.
Another way to understand the value of this album is to imagine that in the depths of Winter you were cold and someone recommended you buy this disc because it would keep you warm. You might don your pickaxe and hard hat to go down the mine in preparation for finding some coal, but what you would find instead is a cave of diamonds from floor to ceiling that shine in the dim amber light of your torch. Take the bag that is your heart and fill it to the top.
Which is just as well because energy prices are going through the roof.
Zesty yet focused, the Twisted Twenty’s Debut is a fantastic window to the Baroque era that you don’t want to close.
As bright and bold as the assorted splashes on their front cover, “The Twisted Twenty” arrive with their baroque-character instruments and are on a mission to bring back 17th and 18th Century folk melodies (but were they ever truly out?)
Launched early in the year, their self-titled debut album does indeed deliver on this mission, and it does in the form of a mostly instrumental warm brew that shares a rather rich concoction of strings, other instruments and a scattering of almost marshmallow vocals. Whilst I can fantasise about hot chocolate, I am saying this from the cold, steadfast shell of Autumn, but the album is quite firmly a Spring album (it did come out in April).
It could be the image of spirals of hay and scattering straw with the welcome lightness of touch of Ruidleadh mo Nighean Donn – Cuir I Gluin Air a Bodach which seems to be capturing rays as it plays or the slightly mischievous and joyful collection of instruments of Track 1, The Ragged Sailor Set in all of it’s sparky, plucky energy; there is a good sense of fun which plays throughout the disc. The mixing is top notch, unlike Morecambe and Wise in some well-resourced sketch, you never feel that an instrument is jostling for the limelight, the cello and double bass do not announce their arrival and refuse to sit down; it all works together very well indeed.
There is a lot to like, the regality of James Oswald’s, The Banks of Forth/She’s Sweetest When She’s Naked is intriguing. Their take on Arthur McBride is a gently moving, and rather earthy as the focus is drawn to the larger stringed instruments. The base is a quiet shudder, maybe the earth giving way for a seedling to grow. When he hear some traditional song lyrics such as those for The Three Ravens, we are not disappointed. Holly Harman’s voice reaches with a kind of sadness and fitting lament of the said ravens in the story who are eyeing a potential meal that ultimately they do not get.. The melody has a cool, sparseness like the chilled intake of breath before Three Good Fellows the following track which isa short but exuberant number is tailed by a stocky, gallant bodhran that gives it a definite kind of kick.
Everything is in it’s right place and this album is a great introduction to this period of history. Fresh and restless it is a dog’s bright keen eyes to it’s walking lead, one cannot deny the confidence that the Twisted Twenty walk in with here. For a man who likes his vocals and lyrics, The Twisted Twenty sit up there with Leveret at the few predominantly instrumental groups who I like to listen to, and when they do tackle lyrics it is as glorious as a dancing cat.
Observational and considered, Lakeman collects a squad of influencing folk artists that bring his rich imagination and celebratory character to life
Released 3rd February 2017
Geoff Lakeman, in a rather circular and interesting path has recorded his debut solo entitled “After All These Years.”
What I mean of course is that Geoff is known to many being a renowned journalist for several users and also being father to Seth, Sean and Sam Lakeman; all musicians, all well known and father-in-law to equally renowned Kathyrn Roberts and Cara Dillon he has influenced some great musical talent, but he himself as never done a solo recording. I’m sure there is some saying about Salmon returning to where it was born or something about rivers and the ocean (I am not sure myself what I mean) but this personal wish to have have a disc made is a big one, and a timely one of that.
In a world where politics are more than ever discussed and the issues of truth and honesty are being debated; there is something refreshingly simple yet powerful about the contents of “After All these Years.” After all, Geoff was a veteran observer and recorder by profession (in journalism), it seems that however the world has turned Geoff would have seen and heard all and he is presenting what he knows to the listener. As a result we get an album that feels like it honours the songs within that he covers as well as the working man; it speaks from a wise, considered approach to the fundamental traditions of folk and has a pretty humble quality to it. Another way of putting it is that there are few “airs and graces” to be had here, the album is a listener and thinker not the debutante who wants to be seen and heard at all costs (and more the better for it). As a listener, Geoff puts on a quiet celebration.
Indeed, the album is characterised by it’s celebration of the past and in order to do so Geoff is joined by a multitude of artists. Not only is there family as Sean(producer an guitars), Seth (violin, viola), Sam (piano) and Kathryn and Cara (vocals) but also the well received Jim Causley (vocals, accordion), Jamie Francis (banjo), Ben Nicholls (bass, harmonium, jaw harp), Dan Crimp (whistle) and Gill Redmond (cello) also along for the ride. This crew of forces are to be reckoned with, but then they are topped off by legendary guitarist Nic Jones who sings some backing vocals on “England Green, England Grey.” It all builds a picture of an album intimately assembled with it’s supportive and close roster of characters. How are the songs?
There are some great Geoff Lakeman original works here. “Tie ‘Em Up” is one example of many on the disc where Lakeman is holding his principles dear, standing up for the fisherman with their imposed quotas and livelihoods that are being toyed with by officials, “We’ve risked our lives, left our wives. Missed our children growing up. Now we are high and dry upon the shore. On the dole – won’t fish no more.” A bouncy type of shanty and a sideways jab at authority like the latter original track “Doggie Song” (that we will see later), it would not be out of place in a musical on the stage with professional dancers in yellow fishing macs juggling buckets of fish. It oozes character as a squid oozes ink, the vocal harmony injects an infectious energy throughout and the concertina, as you would expect, is faultless. This all comes together in an even grander way for the “Rule and Bant”, a song about two Cornish miners who were trapped underground in the latter part of 1800s and the events that unfold as air was pumped down to keep them alive. It booms as Lakeman weaves the story around with harmonies that plunge deep like the obsidian earth itself and promising doom. A clear favourite that incorporates some nice touches with history.
But also there are covers that showcases Lakeman’s ear for a good tune and history in the folk scene. For example, Geoff’s version of Buddy and Jullie Miller’s sun-scorched “Wide Wide River to Cross” gives several of previous renditions a run for their money. His voice is warm with crystal clear enunciation, a beautiful trill of a vocal harmony and performed with a truly emotive mix of instruments it really gets into the corners of Americana’s dusty barn. If old folk songs were cowboys, this would a sheriff. The concertina bites delightfully across the track like the wind of a dustbowl’s cold evening nights, it is all very enjoyable and another favourite on this disc. Whilst historical in nature as it touches on other times and places, Geoff’s recording of Reg Meuross’ “England Green and England Grey” is very much of now, a political powerhouse and a commentary of the state things. It might be somewhat topical with its distrust of the “BBC” and “the NHS, our England jewel, is bartered by Westminster’s fool” but it really could be any time, especially as it recognises our British empire past. Managing to be both celebratory and critical of the state of things it perhaps places what it is to be British beyond all these events and ends with a collective call. Singing with Nic Jones shows a lovely contrast on this track, they work really well together and bring a several sided look at strength, fragility, morals and tradition to mind. Wonderful stuff.
Most importantly though, the cd never takes itself too seriously. Indeed if serious “down-the-line” folk is a bus then at a couple of points on the disc Geoff makes a stop to find a real ale tavern leading to some excellent diversions. It is hard to pinpoint the parts where he particularly relishes the fun side of “folk” but “When the Taters Are All Dug” and “Doggie Song” are pretty good candidates. The former is Lakeman at his fullest rural peak, as I picture him drinking milk with a straw hat while agricultural machinery is strategically placed in the background. Lovingly committed to the song throughout, the charm emanates all round be it the distinct twang within, the high caliber squeeze box or Lakeman’s own voice that rises and turns to the challenge. You can almost picture his smile through whatever audio equipment you are using. In all the best ways possible, you can imagine “Doggie Song” as being part of a vaudeville act. Gently lamenting on there being nowhere where his dog can go for some much needed relief it playfully paintings beach inspectors as some kind of organised cabal of fun haters and the South of England gets painted jokingly as no place for a dog. As an original track it is an interesting glimpse into the Geoff’s mind and it makes you wonder what else he has yet to reveal. It’s chorus will certainly linger in the mind, “you can’t bring your doggie down ‘ere.”
What can I say? The album is like a film with Lakeman being the ethical director, the heart and soul that shapes the performances around him. There are many other gems to be found here which I haven’t mentioned, so I heartily recommend. The production is crisp and captures a fine balance of instruments, the duet concertina is very much a star but not at the expense of the other fine performers and instruments here. He leads in an admirable way on the disc, being fearless of reprisals and confident of the dignities and rights of people. When such a moral attitude is combined with some of the most recognised performers of the day, you expect magic to happen; and it does in spades.
Check out Geoff’s site here for details of purchasing the album and for more information.
Released 14th September 2016, Live on BBC Radio 2.
In association and support from the EFDSS.
In the field of engineering and business collaboration it is important to get what you are doing right. As Henry Ford said,
“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”
If Ange Hardy and Lukas Drinkwater are anything to go by then in virtue of their shared love of bad jokes (so bad they are good) and self-deprecation on their extensive tour (see here), they are indeed making a success from their relatively new “duo” status and discovering a strength in each other’s talents. Part of the fruits of their twosome toiling is a new album simply called “Findings” with Ange Hardy taking the lead vocals, some harp, whistle and strings, and Lukas with vocals, guitar and double bass. Described as something that couldn’t have been accomplished by the artists alone, “Findings” has attracted some collaborations from other artists too based in the North such as Barnsley Light Kathryn Roberts along for some vocals, and Sheffield-dwelling celebrity Nancy Kerr who bring a little extra prestige to the mix. The attention and inclusion of these artists regularly attached to the BBC2 Folk Awards does tell of the quick ascent Ange Hardy has made in the last three years and of a growing musical influence she is having in the community at large. The album has featured highly on Amazon and sales are looking healthy but what is the album like itself?
A nice touch is the pervasiveness of how the theme of these connections is explored. It is “finding” in concept, sound and word but also surprisingly in action as a rather special added bonus of the CD. Each disc comes with a unique name and code imprinted on the album case with a game that you and other purchasers can become involved in. Each name is one half of a group or duo who have performed together; finding the person who has the matching name and code gives both individuals the chance to unlock some bonus material next year (my code is King Billy, please help me out). I have not come across such such a social event in a folk music release before, it is an interesting attempt to innovate and bringing an abstract concept and idea to life in a real way. Ange Hardy et al are becoming fully confident and immersed in the business of making music, it is thankful to know that such a thing is reinforced to an optimistic idea that builds on the central concept and adds interest in the work. It is like a more ethical version of viral marketing used in branding and film media except here they are creating new meanings in the work they do. The album case design itself is quite simple, yet clean with Ange’s historically influenced icon of a tree and roots in shining silver on a matte black background, it is clearly going for the pure approach instead of clutter and confusion.
The album musically expands on this purity of vision as it feels this time like the album is giving something back to history. Ange has done much original work previously and here with “Findings”, much like Confucianism’s honouring of the ancestors, the two writers are performing and writing to satisfy more traditional elements of the folk scene. It is this way that it is most surprising. After listening for a while I was rather amused to see reading the notes that many of the tracks were originally written work and are not from folk history, I could swear there was more traditional material here, but it plumps for influence rather than imitation. It amounts to an album that sounds deeply embedded in folk consciousness but does not come exclusively from history but also modern events which is a testament to the writing and sound that is contained within. It is not the literary-heavy reworking of Ange’s previous Esteesee, but the skills of textual adaptation can be clearly seen running through the album. If it close to any of Ange’s catalogue it is probably in sound nearest to the Lament of the Black Sheep with elements of her other work within but with a slicker sound depth that aims for a wider target audience alongside the rising production.
“True are the mothers” is an epic ode to motherhood that encompasses the aspects of protection “Many are welcome to Shelter all by my cloak”, family “none are forgotten for good is the home”, and provision “all of the little ones call on my care to feed from the fruits of the earth” in the form of trees throughout the song. It has a delicate yet strong arrangement, a spider’s silk of sanctuary spreading outwards. The sacred sense of the song is added to by some magical turns by Nancy Kerr and Kathryn Roberts as added vocals, and it all hangs together with some light harp, whistle, and treading double bass that form a soundscape of bright forest mornings, slender breezes, and venerable medieval folk. Despite previous consternation from myself that this album was unlike her previous, this track is quite stripped back in presentation, and infused with nature’s power much like some of the tracks on her “Bare Foot Folk” album, which is no bad thing at all. Another song on the album that mentions trees, though in a more metaphorical way is the duo’s version of “The Trees They do Grow”, a traditional song in every which way referencing medieval child marriage, and the shortness and brightness of the spark of life in those days. There is a nice contrast between voices here. Ange’s voice is searching, emotive, and expressive whereas Lukas in backing sounds like the voice of inevitability; like if gravel had legs and walked amongst us. It amounts to a searing and honest re-telling of a very famous folk song indeed, it fits right into place here and is a firm favourite.
Another great track, “By the Tides” is an introspective look at the conscience of the nation as it explores the loss of human life in the Mediterranean Sea by people crossing to seek safety. It does not blast out it’s judgement but worries, wonders and asks. Like many tracks on the disc it is an acoustic marvel which dwells in the open away from an overwhelming or stuffed ensemble of instruments and takes the sharp tool of acoustic guitar, some double bass, vocals and does what it will with these. It is a song raising beacon on in exploration of the issue and has the subdtlety of lighting a candle amongst hope rather than a lighter at the fuel of anger around migration, asylum and fear. True with lyrics such as “will you still be waiting when the ignorance has gone?” it could be being forceful with it’s message but in it’s questioning lyrics and rhymes it seems to be pointing towards a welcoming answer rather than prescribing it too heavily. Beautiful in execution with a warming character it deserves more than a few listens. “Invisible Child” also tackles a societal issue, but one not so highly publicised. Written about young carers and the things they do for family member that are often unseen by greater society it considers the mind of the child and the simple day to day routines done without question in the heart of adult responsibility seen experienced in the life . There is little instrumentation like “By the Tides” and here it is tenderly sad, eliciting some heartfelt sorrow as you hear the voice and the joy the child has at doing these simple, essential things. A smile is raised at the end of the song when the whistle comes into play weaving the child’s imagination, fun and energy almost into a dancing jester, a remarkable remembrance of who they are despite the need to “be” an adult. It is a skilled use of candor as it defines and gently engages around a society-wide issue, and is a great track in it’s right. Even more disrobed of musical instruments, “The Pleading Sister” is a song that expands on the nursery rhyme “Little Boy Blue”. It is seamless how it is done, on listening one could imagine the story of woe from the perspective of the sister of the noise-making sibling who fatally falls victim to cattle being the actual missing verses. In sound it is simply told through Ange Hardy’s style of minor harmony with herself, and the mixing of voice is quite good. Much like an older family member held in wonder for repairing clothes, the song like the stitching repair with skilled hands is faultless, invisible; the writers’ hands move and the only uncertain thing is where the story starts and where it ends and working with old material such as this takes a very deft hand indeed.
Also on the album are some more heavily layered tracks drawing on more instrumentation. This serves to not only balance out the construction of the songs within but also showcase the learning that has taken place following Ange Hardy’s earlier albums and the influences she has developed over the years. She describes “The Widow” as her favourite instrumental arrangement on the album and it is hard to see how it couldn’t be. The role of memories and their changing nature both lightens and weighs burdensome amongst Evan Carson’s sparkling percussion, the dream-like accordion (Archie Churchill-Moss) and tragi-myth stylings of the fiddle (Ciaran Algar). An accomplished, mature work that burns the senses like spicy, mock turtle soup it has a classic refinement you find on the best folk tracks on the best albums being played in the best pubs. Another track, “Far Away from Land” also brings together some more instruments, this time in a very lightly nautical sounding song around a heavily nautical topic (the passing of Manfred Fritz Bajorat who moved away from land and his family to live the rest of his life at sea). The song based on the gentleman shows Ange at her most animated on the album, the song is cyclical and sounds much like the isolation and circling feelings of the sailor. It brings all the elements together in a pacier number that is 5 parts a story of legend, 2 parts a sad tale, and 3 parts of going out the way you say you will. The differing voices all come together well here. There is a tinge of madness in the loop, and the delivery seems to see the last days of the sailor as perhaps being more tormented than he might have imagined or wanted them to be. This is the artists’ imagining anyway for it is another mystery of the world for what those last days must have been like. The male backing vocals work particularly well in this song being stepped with the addition of Steve Pledger in backing being the coffee to Drinkwater’s black molasses.
Clean, professional and rewarding on re-listen, it has taken a while to see the different parts within this “Findings” album.
If her albums were professions this one would as literally described previously, the jeweller attaching a charm on to a loved and old charm bracelet: there are different parts which together jangle and bring memories of different people, times, and places.
Like some of the finest single malts, there are several touches and flavours to be borne from the finish; if I was to pair this album with a whisky it would have to be an Aberfeldy Single Cask balanced in spice and honey for the album is quite distinguished in it’s depth and harmony. The subject material is wider than previous albums, it’s appeal is probably wider too in terms of who will get the most from “Findings” and this can only be a good thing. One cannot fail to be impressed by what is done here and the intentions behind it, it’s concept is not overly laboured in the songs per se but done carefully and thoughtfully in the spirit and sun of the music inside. The execution of the “Findings” Game also show a clever mind at work and a lovely attempt to bring people together in the mood of the work at hand. There is a craft here that leaves a mark in the book of music that will hopefully run across the whole parchment of folk for years to come.
The Findings Album can be found everywhere including on Amazon, and the official website here.
1. The Call/Daughter’s of Watchet/ Caturn’s Night
2. The Pleading Sister
3. The Trees They Do Grow High
4. Far Away Land
5. By the Tides
6. My Grandfathers/Bearded Ted of Raddington
7. True are the Mothers
8. The Berkshire Tragedy
9. The Widow
10. Bonny Lighter-Boy
11. Invisible Child
12. Daughter Dear Daughter
13. The Parting Lullaby
If you are still not sure check out the video below and head over for their album or tour, you will not be disappointed, here is my post from seeing them at Derby Folk Festival this year.