DAVID MILTON – Songs From The Bell Man (Story Records Strec1801)

Songs From The Bell ManProduced by and featuring Ange Hardy, this is the debut album by an affable chap from her home town of Watchet in Somerset who, in addition to running weekly shanty nights down the pub and being an established stone sculptor also serves as the local football referee and Punch and Judy Man. Not to mention, holding the position of Town Crier, hence the album’s title, Songs From The Bell Man. And, of course, that commanding voice.

Joined by Lukas Drinkwater on double bass, Archie Churchill-Moss on accordion fiddle player Tom Moore, and percussionist Olly Winters-Owen, with shanty vocal contributions from The Old Gaffers, it’s a collection of both traditional and self-penned songs documenting Watchet’s long history. Case in point being album opener ‘The Watchet Sailor’, a tale about hearts-stealing Jack Tars that he first learned when he was about eight, sung unaccompanied.

The first of the original material follows, accordion backdropping ‘The Last Shift In’, a catchy waltzer lament for the closing of the Wansborough Paper Mill, where he once worked, in 2015 after over 260 years, the intro of ‘Wasson Boy’ being a greeting at shift change to see if all as going well. A Celtic melody setting of Tennyson’s poem with Hardy on whistle, ‘Crossing The Bar’ tips the hat to a former Watchet crier, one Yankee Jack, it being one of his favourite songs. A familiar shanty, ‘Greenland Fisheries’ returns to traditional waters, the maritime imagery carried over into the self-penned ‘The Last Long Ship’, another Celtic mist melody carrying the poignant story him joining a recently widowed Watchet lady to bid farewell to her husband by consigning his ashes to a Viking funeral, a flock of geese flying past in perfect formation to the flickering flames.

It’s back to traditional shanty shores with the unaccompanied ‘Won’t You Go My Way’, another song learned from Yankee Jack, the Old Gaffers singing the title refrain and the number flowing into the lengthily titled Morris tune ‘Oh dear mother what a fool I’ve been. Six young fellows came a courting me. Five were blind and the other couldn’t see. Oh dear mother what a fool I’ve been.’

Another melancholic gentle waltzer with music hall influences, ‘Emma Louise’ dates back to Milton’s days working at the mill some thirty years back, a love song not to some young lass but a boat, or at least his fanciful imaging of two sail boats he knew about, the lyric another lament for something that’s come to end of its useful life.

The final Milton song, ‘Old Be’n, nods to another former member of the Court Leet, Ben Norman and the wealth of local history knowledge about Watchet harbour he carried with him. If you’re looking for comparisons, this one points to Stan Rogers.

It ends with two unaccompanied traditional numbers, ‘Row On Row On’ being a setting by Tim Laycock to words from the 1864 journal of a New Bedford whaler concerning fears of an approaching storm and arousing reading of ‘Bye Bye My Roseanna’, a shanty cocktail of Scandinavian and Mississippi versions of the song about a sailor’s ocean-roaming life. A fine album indeed, Oyez, oyez.

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.songsfromthebellman.co.uk

The 2018 Folking Awards

Welcome to the 2018 Folking Awards and thank you again to everyone who participated last year. The nominations, in eight categories, come from our ever-expanding team of writers and were wrangled into shape with considered argument and arm-wrestling by the Folkmeister and the Editor.

There are five nominees in each category, all of whom have impressed our writers during 2017.

As with the format last year, all are winners in our eyes, as are quite a few who didn’t make the short list. However, it’s not just down to what we think, so again, there will be a public vote to decide the overall winner of each category.

*The Public Vote for each category will close at 9.00pm on Sunday 1st April (GMT+1).


Soloist Of The Year

 Jon Boden
Ange Hardy
Daria Kulesh
Richard Thompson
Chris Wood


Public Vote

*And the winner is: Open envelope!

 


Best Duo

Kate & Raphael
O’Hooley & Tidow
Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman
Laura Smyth & Ted Kemp
Winter Wilson


Public Vote

*And the winner is: Open envelope!

 


Best Band

Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys
Merry Hell
Peter Knight’s Gigspanner
Police Dog Hogan
The Unthanks


Public Vote

*And the winner is: Open envelope!

 


Best Live Act

CC Smugglers
Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band
Fairport Convention
Lau
Merry Hell


Public Vote

*And the winner is: Open envelope!

 


Best Album

Bring Back Home – Ange Hardy
Pretty Peggy – Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys
Long Lost Home – Daria Kulesh
A Pocket Of Wind Resistance – Karine Polwart/Pippa Murphy
Strangers – The Young ‘Uns


Public Vote

*And the winner is: Open envelope!

 


Best Musician

Kevin Crawford
Seth Lakeman
Richard Thompson
Karen Tweed
Ryan Young


Public Vote

*And the winner is: Open envelope!

 


Rising Star

Sam Brothers
Siobhan Miller
Jack Rutter
Sound Of The Sirens
The Trials Of Cato


Public Vote

*And the winner is: Open envelope!!

 


Best International Artist

Rodney Crowell
Anna Coogan
Michael McDermott
Le Vent Du Nord
The Wailin’ Jennys


Public Vote

*And the winner is: Open envelope!

 


If you would like to consider ordering a copy of an album for any of our award winners (in CD or Vinyl), download an album or track or just listen to snippets of selected songs (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Use the left and right arrows to scroll.

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.

Folkies 2018

ANGE HARDY – Bring Back Home (Story Records STREC 1701)

Bring Back HomeAnge Hardy’s new album Bring Back Home was released on November 28th. For the past few years, she has had nominations and awards a-plenty, both for her music and most recently her radio programme, Folk Findings.

If you’ve not come across Ange Hardy before (I was surprised recently to find an acoustic music promoter who hadn’t) Bring Back Home is her sixth album and her music is in the English folk tradition. Except, of course, she’s not predominantly a singer of traditional English folk songs. On this album only two of the fourteen songs (‘Claudy Banks’ and a lovely version of ‘Waters of Tyne’) are traditional. The remainder are written by Hardy. Lyrically, musically and through the arrangements, though, they are at the heart of the tradition.

Have a listen to ‘What It Is’ for Hardy’s recognition that in chasing awards, “I’d missed the point of music! Life is far, far too short to chase goals without enjoying the journey”. The track has a beautifully poised vocal on a song that, until I read the sleeve notes, I heard as a generic lyric about life rather than the specific meaning for a writer who has now come to understand that the clubs, singers and audiences, not the awards, are “the beating heart of folk”.

Hardy’s voice absorbs the listener. On ‘Sisters Three’ the different phrasings draw you in to a folk tale about the development of good and evil in the heart of mankind, whereas on ‘Chase The Devil Down’ the vocal dances with the guitar throughout the track. On ‘The Hunter, The Prey’ her voice breathlessly pulls us into the magical world of the song, but on ‘Once I Was A Rose’ it is more acapella and more delicate. I had the CD in the car last week and my passenger, a trained singer, described the voice as “fine”. Her meaning was not, as I would use the word to mean, ‘better than good’ (though it is); she meant it in the way a maker would use the word in describing fine needlework, fine silverwork et al – deft, delicate, precise (as well as rather good).

Ange Hardy arranged and produced the album and the arrangements bring in musicians (Peter Knight, Lukas Drinkwater, Evan Carson, Alex Cumming, Jon Dyer and Lee Cuff) who enrich the songs and centre them in folk music. Similarly, the lyrics generally deal with universal themes, set in the “fictional landscape that seems to permeate many of my songs. Willow trees and streams…dense woodlands….A sense of magic and mystery surrounding complex characters; each on their own journey” [sleeve notes]. This, too, is very much a traditional folk landscape.

I’m writing this in the first week of December. As a result, I’m particularly struck by ‘What May You Do For The JAM’. When the Prime Minister expressed her concern for those who were just managing, civil servants acronymed them into the JAM. The song knows people in this world and, as well as knowing the fear of failing, has detail, “The turkey alone would be more than our savings” humanity, “And so I play Mum…..I carry on making a home full of Christmassy cheer”, and positivity, “My point is the only rock left here to build on is that of a world which has hope”. It’s as far as you can get from an acronym. Watch the video below and you’ll hear that it’s a good song as well as one which makes a human and political point. It might be too late, but if you fancy the idea, there are under three weeks to get a folk song to Number One for Christmas.

In the next couple of months there are gigs and radio shows that will help take Bring Back Home to a wider audience. That’s good, it’s a fine album.

Mike Wistow

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: https://www.angehardy.com

‘What May You Do For The JAM?”:

Ange Hardy’s new album is on general release this month

Ange Hardy

Bring Back Home is the sixth studio album from the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award nominated singer, songwriter and independent recording artist Ange Hardy. The last year has seen Ange Hardy performing live on both BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio Three and touring as a headline artist at venues including The Sage Gateshead and The Regal Theatre.

Her last album (Findings) hit Number 1 in the Amazon Folk Music charts, scored a 5-star review from R2 Magazine, and found itself in the fRoots Critics Poll end of year list.

Ange Hardy has come a long way from the 14 year-old who ran away from a children’s home in Somerset and discovered music and songwriting as a counsellor and lifeline whilst living homeless on the streets of Ireland. Rather than relaxing with the success of her 2016 album, she’s followed it up with this – her fifth consecutive 14-track album in the last five years.

The songs on this album (twelve written by Ange this year, and two traditional) range from epic full band productions (‘Sisters Three’) to stripped back vocal tracks (‘Once I Was A Rose’). There are insightful songs about Asperger’s and ADHD (A Girl Like Her) and political songs written in response to a recent item on the Jeremy Vine show (‘What May You Do for the JAM?’). There are songs that feel like they belong in an English country garden (‘Summer’s Day / Little Wilscombe’) alongside songs that feel like they’re set in the cinematic landscape of Tim Burton (‘Little Benny Sing Well’). There are guitar and percussion driven songs that will make you tap your feet and hum along (‘Husband John’) nestled against delicate harp songs (‘Waters Of Tyne’).

The closing song (‘What It Is’) demonstrates the diversity of Ange’s musical styling and the blurred lines between acoustic, folk, singer-songwriter and pop, delivering a genre-defying message of hope that cuts to the thematic heart of Bring Back Home: “Let it be what it is for the grieving is more than the time that you have, and coming is more for the leaving… it is more to have love than to have. Whatever may be make it welcome, whatever may go let it pass… for time it is precious and seldom will your time be well spent on the past”.

 “There’s frankly so much to admire, but the main thing is it sounds beautiful!” – BBC Radio 2

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.angehardy.com

‘What May You Do For The JAM?’ – official video:

SINGLES BAR 16

A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 16We’re a bit late with this one but we can’t let the year turn without a mention of ANGE HARDY’s Christmas single. There are two tracks, both original compositions and both sung acapella. ‘The Quantock Carol’ should immediately go into every seasonal repertoire – it’s a plea for peace now and in the future, a simple and beautiful song. ‘Mary’s Robin’ is based on the Gaelic legend about how the robin got its red breast and should be snapped up by unaccompanied groups and community choirs everywhere.
http://www.angehardy.com/

CRAIG FINN has a new album, We All Want the Same Things, out in March preceded by a single ‘Preludes’. Finn grew up in Edina, Minneapolis and describes ‘Preludes’ as “this was what I remember 1994 being like, coming back to the Twin Cities after being away for college.” ‘Preludes’ gives us snapshot of this time in life: “I came back to St Paul’s and things had progressed and got strange”; images of his friends who have moved away to Seattle while he is back in the hometown hitting the bars; of a guy who jumped out at him with a pistol (“I considered my options and decided to do what he said”); and, above all, “I got stuck in a snowbank, I was too drunk to drive to a diner/ Right there was proof of my faith that God watches us”, leading to the refrain which permeates and ends the song “God watches us”. It sounds heavy, but it’s not. The musical feel is reminiscent of the driving energy of the Counting Crows and it’s a fun song capturing that time of life in your early twenties when you return home after time away and re-evaluate your relationship with your home town and family.
http://www.craigfinn.net/

Don’t look for JAKE ISLAND on a map – you won’t find it. Jake is a he: a singer/songwriter/ producer from County Meath. He’s rather modest about what he does on his EP Kindest Of Our Days, listing musicians including featured vocalists Rowan and Driver 66. The four songs here are a sort of Irish-Americana with banjo, fiddle, flute and whistles as well as the standard guitar-bass-drums trinity. There’s an odd melancholy about the music. ‘Last Drunk In Town’ and ‘Lose The Love’ should be sung in a late-night bar and ‘Horizon Blues’ is the story of an old musician reminiscing and perhaps thinking about a comeback tour. The title track, which opens the set, is the most upbeat of the collection but even here there is nostalgia in the strictest sense: a pain and regret for what is past. There are four great songs here.
www.jakeisland.co.uk

‘Alive’ is a download only single from Scottish band SKIPINNISH. It opens as a gentle piano-based meditation on the blessing of being alive complete with angelic backing vocals, something of a reaction to 2016 you might think. At the minute mark it takes off with drums, fiddle and electric guitar before almost settling into a meditative mood – fooled you, they were just gearing up for a big finish. “You’re alive, you’re alive and the stars are on your side” is a good thought to begin the year with.
http://www.skipinnish.com/

ANGE HARDY & LUKAS DRINKWATER – Findings (Story Records STREC1662)

FindingsI can’t decide if I’m more impressed by the quantity or the quality of Ange Hardy’s work. The ink is barely dry on Esteesee, her 2015 exploration of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and she’s back with her fourth album formalising her work in partnership with Lukas Drinkwater. Findings is a term for the linking pieces in jewellery that join the settings and stones together – Ange knows about this stuff – and provides the theme of this album. And I do find it refreshing to find a themed album that sticks to its central idea all the way through without forcing it down your throat. For that alone Findings is a wonderful record.

In the opening track, ‘The Call/Daughters Of Watchet/Caturn’s Night’, the link is the railway that linked Watchet to the mines of the Brendon Hills but it is also four love stories. The final track, ‘Fall Away’ returns to Watchet and the four daughters of the town now that the mines and the railway and the fishing are gone. Findings mixes original and traditional material, often in one song. So ‘The Pleading Sister’ builds a song around the single verse of ‘Little Boy Blue’ and ‘Bonny Lighter-Boy’ sets a new tune to a traditional set of words.

The (more or less) traditional pieces are ‘The Trees They Do Grow High’, ‘The Berkshire Tragedy’ and ‘The Parting Lullaby’ and I can tell that you’re working out the findings each of these songs. The original songs cover a multitude of relationships but I will single out ‘Invisible Child’ as a masterful example of Ange and Lukas’ songwriting – simple and direct but powerful and moving.

Sometimes Ange and Lukas perform alone but there is a small band of Archie Churchill-Moss, Ciaran Algar and Evan Carson with additional vocals from Nancy Kerr, Kathryn Roberts and Steve Pledger. Even so, the accompaniments are restrained and the songs are out front where they should be. Not to belittle its predecessors but Findings could be Ange’s best album.

Dai Jeffries

Some copies of Findings carry a sticker which can be matched with another to win a (possibly) fabulous prize. Mine reads PHMOI. If you have the matching half, please let me know and we can split the loot.

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.angehardy.com