HARRI ENDERSBY – Homes/Lives (own label)

Homes/LivesA rising new presence on the contemporary folk scene, Durham-born Harri Endersby has been putting herself about on the live circuit for the past four years, during which time she released her debut EP, Ivy Crown, to good reviews. Now here’s her debut album, Homes/Lives, an eleven track collection of songs informed by influences drawn as much from Icelandic electro-folk as the traditional music of the North East. Constructed around a mix of acoustic and electronic instrumentation over which are layered her multi-tracked vocals, the songs, as the title suggests, revolve around thought of who we are and where we belong, the yearning to explore, the tug to return and the journey in-between.

With bassist/guitarist and drummer/synth player augmenting Endersby’s guitar and violin, it begins with the simple drone accompanied ‘Intro’, Endersby harmonising with herself, the sparse instrumentation making its appearance with the soft shuffle of ‘Laughter Lines’. The fingerpicked title track’s a good example of the gentle, pastoral mood that permeates the album, her voice relaxed and dreamy, likewise the hushed ‘Bird & Whale’ and ‘Noise’.

Although the sonic landscape expands as the album progresses, with skittering electronics on ‘Stay Awhile’, the puttering guitar work of ‘Hear’ or the more uptempo beat to ‘Let Me Run’ for example, it generally tends to maintain much the same floaty level throughout, suggesting it’s best experienced in an equally tranquil setting. A little more light and shade might go amiss as she progresses, but she can feel rightly proud of her achievements here.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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Artist’s website: www.harriendersby.com

‘Homes/Lives’ – live:

Sound Of The Sirens announce debut album

Sirens

There’s a certain transcendent magic that happens when two contrasting voices coalesce in perfect harmony – think The Everly Brothers, Simon & Garfunkel or George Jones and Tammy Wynette. Imperceptibly, they can raise you from the temporal to the spiritual in the breath of a song, and set you floating among the firmament infused with a sense of wonder – just like Sound Of The Sirens.

Exeter-based duo Abbe Martin and Hannah Wood dovetail beautifully on their debut album, For All Our Sins, a beguiling acoustic pop collection replete with lyrical sensibility on tracks like the first single, ‘Smokescreen’ (“Living beyond the darkness others create for us, and growing into something positive”), ‘The Circus’ (“When everyone wants something from you, who can you trust?”) and ‘Mr Wilson’ (“The chemistry of a new relationship, unsure of where it is going, but knowing that you want more from it”).

Already championed by Chris Evans – who declared himself “blown away” when he heard Sound Of The Sirens for the first time, and subsequently invited them to perform alongside U2 and Take That on TFI Friday last year – they’re certain to broaden a burgeoning fan base on the back of For All Our Sins.

It’s a fan base built up not just over several sublime EP releases – but also through their live shows, which combine a natural facility for connecting with their audiences and unforgettable performances predicated on energy, warmth, humour and, above all, real conviction.

This is true whether Sound Of The Sirens are playing the intimate environs of Exeter Cathedral, before tens of thousands at the Isle of Wight Festival or supporting Rick Astley on his UK arena tour.

“We work well together,” says Abbe, a graduate of Dartington College of Arts, who’s now a vocal coach and drama practitioner for Vocal Arts. “We have fun and a shared vision of what we want our music to do and how we want it to influence people. Music moves people and can help people overcome adversity. As performers we have a responsibility to write music that will impact and not offend. If people are listening to your voice, use it wisely.”

She and Hannah – who studied performance art at Barnstaple College – met when they worked together at the Timepiece in Exeter, the venue which gave them their debut as Sound Of The Sirens. Drawing on diverse influences, including Bob Dylan, Ed Sheeran, Joni Mitchell, KT Tunstall, The Carpenters, they write from a personal experience they feel others can relate to.

“We can also be quite inventive in our writing, using different text games to create a stimulus from which to write”, says Hannah. “We definitely put our emotion into our music and publicly vent. We often put a positive spin on the sadness that life can bring, finding strength in doing so and hopefully helping others to deal with the same issues.”

One of those issues – mental health – is the subject of ‘The Voices’.

“We’ve been moved by a mental health campaign, #itaffectsme, that’s bringing people together to be open about mental health issues. It’s also campaigning to get mental health awareness to be spoken about in primary school education to prepare the next generation. As teachers and musicians we feel this is brilliant.”

Sound Of The Sirens want to both enlighten and entertain, and they want to do it with euphony. For All Our Sins accomplishes all of the above. For All Our Sins will be released on DMF Records and available on CD, vinyl and digital.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: www.soundofthesirens.net

‘Smokescreen’ – official video:

HAV – Inver (Folkwit f0136)

InverAs albums go Inver is a bit off the wall but you hope for that from the Folkwit label and I really like it. HAV are a multi-talented trio: Alex Ross, who is the band’s writer, Jonathan Bidgood, who plays a very special role, and Ian Paterson who plays bass. They are the kind of musicians who play with everybody; they have known each other for two decades and have worked on this, their debut, for three years recording in southern Scotland and Newcastle.

The album opens with ‘Ffald Y Brenin’, written by Ross. The title would seem to refer to a Christian retreat in Pembrokeshire, which may or not be significant. Actually, the record begins with the sound of the sea and gulls wheeling overhead. This is Bidgood’s province and his field recordings and sound design decorate the album. The sea morphs into ambient sound from which emerges the most beautiful and haunting of tunes.

There are eight tracks and the album begins and ends with long pieces. Second is another of Ross’ tunes, ‘Cullen Bay’ and then the traditional ‘Loch Tay Boat Song’, a song of seemingly unrequited love on which Ross is joined on vocals by Beccy Owen. Things lighten up now with ‘The Glenglassaugh’ (about a distillery and another opportunity for field recording) and then ‘The Young Man’s Twenty First Birthday’, a story told by Alex’s great uncle Ian Ross. It may not be true – although it should be – and it leads nicely into a pair of spirited tunes, ‘Lydia’s Wedding’ coupled with the well-known ‘King O’ The North’.

The mood becomes more sombre with ‘Peggy Gordon’, with Ross’ gentle, almost lazy vocals carrying the mood of regret and more unrequited love. Finally, there is another original, ‘Goodbye (This Time Forever)’ featuring pipes and snare by Andrew Aitken and Michael Wood which seems to continue the theme of the song. Inver is superficially a simple album but its still waters run deep. I can do no more than recommend it to your attention.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: http://havband.co.uk/

‘Goodbye (This Time Forever)’ – live in the studio:

CUNNING FOLK – Ritual Land, Uncommon Ground (Dharma)

Ritual Land, Uncommon GroundGeorge Nigel Hoyle is a man of many incarnations. He started out professional musical life as bassist with late 90s outfit Gay Dad, a band briefly hailed as the saviours of British rock, going on to join Crispin Hunt of The Longpigs (of Richard Hawley fame) in a short-lived new outfit called Gramercy and wrote Lee Ryan’s first post-Blue solo hit, ‘Army Of Lovers’, before getting into folk, both as a genre and a culture.

Adopting the soubriquet Nigel of Bermondsey, he’s released three albums under the name and, in 2014, he formed GentleFolk, whose self-titled debut album was released last year, and also produced Katy Carr’s most recent album. In addition, for the past five years, he’s run the South East London Folklore Society (SELFS), meeting monthly for talks on a wide variety of folk-related subjects.

Which brings us to Cunning Folk, his latest venture, the name given to practitioners of folk medicine and folk magic (sometimes referred to as white witches), an album tracing a journey across the south of England exploring the history of its trees and local folklore and which, alongside Hoyle variously on guitars and shruti box also features Sam Kelly on drums, pianist Oliver Parfitt and Carr on backing vocals plus assorted uncredited musicians on strings and woodwinds.

Hoyle describes the aptly titled autumnal sounding opening number, ‘This Is How It Starts’, as an exploration of the island prompted by listening to Radio 4, a journey through other places, other histories and new traditions, “calling across the borders that we make in the land.”

The first call on the journey is ‘The Old Straight Track’, a five minute number that, named after the book by Alfred Watkins, opens with bowed cello and unfolds into a stripped back, acoustic accompanied dreamy song about ley lines. We’re then joined by a guide in the form of ‘The Modern Antiquarian’ (a nod to Julian Cope) who, in the company of pipes and strings, leads us “between the borders of then & now…over the field & hill”, a “pre-millennial odyssey From Knowlton Henge to Avebury” that also introduces the first hint of influences taken from The Incredible String Band.

From here we fetch up on the site of a ruined church on Cranborne Chase with its nearby Neolithic ramparts and ancient Yew for ‘What Has Been and Gone Before’, flute and a percussive beat permeating swirling tune the lyrics of which reference Augustine’s mission to bring the Christian faith to the pagan isles, a meditation on the natural process of change as the old gives way to the new, but remain a part of the spiritual legacy.

A more familiar landmark is found in ‘Chalk Horses’, a song about the mysterious ancient figures cut into the down and hills of southern England set to a funky rhythm with barroom blues piano. The catchiest and most immediate track is the rhythmically itchy, hand percussion and flute flourished ‘Uncommon Ground’ itself, strummed a celebration of Britain’s island heritage where “All the roads we run take us to the sea”, an invitingly singalong chorus rolling things along.

Britain’s past is again recalled in the ethereally sung, harp-clothed and floatingly melodic ‘A Brief History Of Agriculture and Mining’, which, charting history “from the stone to the clay to the bronze to the iron”, tips the hat to the farmers and tin and coal miners who worked the land.

The cunning folk themselves are the subject of the ISB-like ‘The Chime Child,’ a drone and harp-infused medieval styled tune that takes its title and swaying miasmal chorus from the belief that a child born in the chime hours, between midnight on Friday and the following dawn will be gifted with healing more and be “masters of music & finders of rhyme, & every beast will do what they say, & every herb that do grow in the clay.”

The warning that, for such folk, “to show too much may not be wise” is borne out in the following ironically titled track, ‘Lancashire, God’s Country’, an account of the 17th century Pendle witch trials where 10 of 11 accused were ‘witnesses’ coached by the clergy, hung for witchcraft, the other apparently vanishing from prison, Hoyle’s spoken delivery recalling that of Vinny Peculiar.

Things are more reassuringly peaceful and pastoral on the trilling flute-adorned ‘The Song of the Nidge’, an encouragement to get in the woods and the shipping forecast zones and listen to the birdsong. Ornithologists will tell you that the word nidge is likely a reference to the hummingbird, known as Kawis Nidges, but, more specifically the song directs you to the call of the yellowhammer (Emberiza Citrinella), the great tit (Parus Major) and the curlew (Numenius). And it’s another call to connect with nature that closes the album, ‘Walk Through The Juniper’ a slow gathering airy invocation of the Juniper forest of the Cairngorms, a wild place to understand our insignificance in the universe (“when I go I leave no trace”) and, lost in the modern world, follow the example of Nan Shepherd, the Scottish poet and author of The Living Mountain, get back in touch with who we are. Balm to the spirit and a hymn to the magic and mystery of the land, acquiring yourself a copy would be a shrewd move.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: www.cunningfolkmusic.com

‘Lancashire, God’s Country’ – official video:

FAY HIELD live at the West End Centre, Aldershot

31st March 2017

Fay Hield live
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

Fay Hield and The Hurricane Party started their spring tour at a brisk pace – seventeen songs, including two encores, in a tight ninety minutes. I can imagine there being a bit of tension in this situation particular as Fay announced that ‘Fair Margaret And Sweet William’ had been arranged by Sam Sweeney, Rob Harbron and herself only that afternoon. We probably wouldn’t have known if nothing had been said but it is rather impressive to write an arrangement and play it from memory a few hours later. Still, I do think they need to relax a bit.

Fay began, as his her custom, with ‘Willow Glen’ accompanied only by Harbron. The rest of the band appeared (Ben Nicholls being fashionably late) for the unusually jolly ‘Tarry Trousers’ and ‘The Weaver’s Daughter’. Fay did promise us a fair share of misery later and had also promised that she would bring her banjo on this tour. She was as good as word and proved to be a melodic player in what I suppose we must call the English style.

After ‘Old Adam’ it got an outing on ‘The Old Grey Goose Is Dead’ with a new sombre tune. I suppose that it’s a generational thing but Fay was surprised to learn that most of us knew it from childhood as ‘Aunt Nancy’ or ‘Aunt Rhody’ and I was surprised to learn that she didn’t. The geese got another name check in ‘The Grey Goose And The Gander’ and the first set closed with ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’.

The second half began in upbeat fashion with ‘Pretty Nancy Of Yarmouth’ and got back to the misery with ‘Green Gravel’ and the aforementioned ‘Lady Margaret’. The band took its turn with a version of ‘Bold Princess Royal’ before ‘Go From My Window’ with Roger Wilson handling second vocal and Sweeney switching to nyckelharpa. ‘The Lover’s Ghost’ made a suitably mournful closer.

The first encore saw Fay solo and unaccompanied with ‘Young Maid Cut Down In Her Prime’ with the Hurricane Party returning for ‘Long Time Ago’. The music was as splendid as ever and sometimes us oldies like to get home at a decent time but please guys, slow things down a bit.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.fayhield.com

‘Raggle Taggle Gyspy’ live:

Cormac Begley releases debut album

Cormac Begley

Award winning concertina player and innovator, Cormac Begley, will be releasing his debut album in April! This, the first solo concertina album in traditional Irish music to feature bass, baritone, treble and piccolo concertinas will also be available in an exclusive limited edition hexagonal concertina packaging.

Cormac Begley’s concertina playing has been described as ‘a masterclass in timeless musicianship (Irish Times *****) and in 2014 he received the Sean Ó Riada Award for his concertina music. He plays in a number of duets including Liam Ó Maonlaí (Hothouse Flowers), Caoimhín O Raghallaigh (Hardanger D’Amore), Rushad Eggleston (Cello Goblin) and Libby McCrohan (bouzouki). He is a member of a trio (entitled ‘Concertina’) with Noel Hill and Jack Talty, and plays in the band Ré featuring Liam Ó Maonlaí, Maitiú Ó Casaide, Eithne Ní Chatháin (Inni-K) and Peter O Toole (Hothouse Flowers) and was also involved in the dance production by choreographer, Michael Keegan Dolan, entitled ‘Rian’.

Cormac has recently returned from Cuba where he played for President Micheal D. Higgin’s first state visit to Havana, Cuba. He has performed on this season’s Other Voices with Caoimhín O Raghallaigh (The Gloaming) and has featured on This Ain’t No Disco – St. Patrick’s Day Special from New York (2017). In May of 2016, he performed with Caoimhín in the National Concert Hall’s Kevin Barry room and in October he performed again with gifted cellist, Rushad Eggleston. He will perform solo in the National Concert Hall in October 2017.

Cormac received funding from the Arts Council of Ireland to produce this album and speaking about his approach to recording the album, he says:

“All of the pieces of music that feature on this album instantly struck a chord with me the first time I heard them. My approach here has been simply to connect as honestly as possible with them and to produce a solo concertina album that highlights some of the instrument’s possibilities spanning across seven octaves”. Further he describes that “Each track is one take, recorded in St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, featuring one concertina and are all free from studio manipulation. I have sourced previously unrecorded music, other tunes within the tradition and I have written some music that features on the album.”

Cormac will be playing at The London Irish Centre, Camden, with Caoimhin O’ Raghallaigh, on the 11th May.

Artist’s website: http://www.cormacbegley.com/