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 the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

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 the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

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: