Halsway Manor – call for Artists In Residence 2018

Halsway ManorHalsway Manor – National Centre for the Folk Arts
Halsway Lane, Nr Crowcombe, Taunton TA4 4BD

 Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts is seeking applications from artists, companies or groups to be Artists in Residence for 2018. The successful artist will follow in the footsteps of  acclaimed folk trio Faustus (Benji Kirkpatrick, Saul Rose, Paul Sartin) in 2016, and celebrated female vocal trio Lady Maisery (Rowan Rheingans, Hazel Askew, Hannah James) in 2017.

Halsway Manor nestles on the Quantock Hills in one of the most beautiful regions of the UK, and is a fantastic and inspiring building which promotes the generation of ideas and development. With a large folk arts library, full residential facilities for up to 65 people and six acres of gardens and grounds it offers a home from home, a space to breathe and create, a magical environment.

The content of any residency at Halsway Manor is formulated between the artists and the management of the Charity. The residency could include leading courses at the Manor, researching and developing new material, working with communities, creating work in response to the setting, or simply finding time to be together in an environment which is conducive to sparking new ideas.

Halsway Manor wishes to hear from artists working within the genre of folk who have, or are developing, a national/international profile to form a symbiotic relationship which promotes and develops the work of both partners. This is not a paid opportunity but the Manor is able to offer the use of their facilities, accommodation and resources, and to partner in any funding bids for the development of work.

Artists wishing to be considered for Halsway Manor Artists in Residence should send an expression of interest to chiefexec@halswaymanor.org.uk by 3rd April 2017 outlining the reasons for their interest, and anticipated aims/outcomes for the residency. More details are available on the website: www.halswaymanor.org.uk.


A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Having released their Death and Other Animals album to wide acclaim last year, FAUSTUS return to the well to lift ‘Slaves’ (Westpark Music 87333) to head up their new 5-track EP, their first for the Germany-based label. You should, of course, be familiar with the number, an arrangement of an 1840 call to arms against injustice meted out to the common man in England taken from the Ruth Tongue archive at Halsway Manor. Also from the album is a radio edit of ‘One More Day’, while ‘The Knife of Brian/ Bluebells and Beech Woods’ is a six-minute instrumental comprising two waltzes, the first a melodeon wheezer, the second a more stately woodwind led affair, hitherto available as an album bonus download. Meanwhile, ‘Thresherman’, the Roud 19 ballad about the rural poor, was, as long time fans will know, recorded by Sartin and Kirkpatrick on The First Cut, the 2003 album in their previous incarnation as Dr. Faustus. Here, it’s a live March 2015 recording from The Lights in Andover, as is the fifth track, a what was then work in progress preview of ‘Slaves’ itself.

THE SWEET WATER WARBLERS are an all female Michigan trio, comprising Lindsay Lou, lead vocalist with The Flatbellys and 2016 Best Vocalist nominee for the International Bluegrass Music Association and fellow singer-songwriters Rachael Davis and Mary Erlewine who, as well singing, trade such instruments as piano, banjo, uke, double bass, banjo and fiddle.

Out at the start of March, the self-released With You is a five-track collection of self-penned material and, featuring Davis on powerful gospel-styled lead, an inspired arrangement that sets the lyrics of one traditional number to the melody of another with ‘House of Amazing Grace’. Davis also contributes and plays banjo on the pure-voiced close harmony Appalachian-styled ballad ‘Lazarus’, featuring Erlewine on mountain fiddle.

Erlewine herself has two numbers, ‘Too Soon’, a number that lives up the trio’s name and is sure to earn them a new Be Good Tanyas tag, and the closing guitar and piano love song yearner title track. The remaining number comes courtesy of Lou, kicking the EP off with the bluesy a capella ‘Sing Me A Song’, herself on lead and sharing the three part harmony chorus, setting the seal on an auspicious debut and introducing a name we’ll be hearing a lot about in the months to come.

Bringing Americana closer to home, BROKEN FLOWERS are a three-piece alt-country outfit from West Yorkshire, lining up as singer Anna Mosley on rhythm guitar, Darren Gibbs on lead and Mike Brown on bass. They’ve alreadty released an album and follow that up with the self-released six-track So Many Shadows. They’ve cut their teeth on the UK country circuit and the EP reflects an awareness of the need to appeal to a range of tastes and audiences while keeping the feet on the dancefloor. Opener ‘Stephen’s Song’ is a solid mid-tempo chugger with swaggery hooks and is, in turn, followed by the slower dance paced ‘Easy On Me’, a mood echoed by the bruised heart love and loss notes of ‘Right About Now’.

But if they colour within the lines, they do so with confidence and bold strokes, prepared to challenge the quick fix approach with two six-minute plus numbers, the rolling punchy country rock of ‘Anywhere’ and mid-tempo demo closer ‘Sunday Morning’ with is Texicana guitar flavours and Mosley’s twang. And to top that there also a near eight-minute ‘I Saw A Light’, a slow burn soulful smoulder about the 1838 Huskar colliery disaster in Barnsley that shifts into a thundering, desert guitar howl climax before ending with the words “You keep the gold we pay the price,” spoken by Mosley’s seven-year-old son, the same age as her great great great uncle, James Burkinshaw, the youngest of the 26 children to drown when the pit flooded.

THE BROTHER BROTHERS are actually twin brothers Adam and David Moss based in Brooklyn. Adam is plays fiddle in a variety of old styles. Guitarist David is originally from Peoria – no, we can’t figure that out, either – and has two albums to his credit. Together they play a sophisticated Americana which still maintains the edge you look for in the genre. Tugboats would seem to be their recording debut, a six-track EP of mostly original songs – the cover isn’t very informative.

The title track is a slowish country waltz with a clever lyric rooted in their home city and a nice bit of philosophy: tugboats go slow because that’s the way to pull a heavy load. ‘Bird In A Tree’ is an up-tempo fiddle song that could pass as traditional. ‘Columbus Stockade Blues’ is traditional, made famous by Doc Watson and here given a rhythmic finger-style guitar part and a brief fiddle break. ‘Come Back Darling’ is a fiddle backed exercise in harmony singing – rather ponderous when compared with the rest of the set but ‘Notary Public’ restores the lightness we’ve enjoyed so far. ‘Cairo, IL’ is probably by David, Illinois being the link. It has a slightly west coast feel except for the fiddle breaks which firmly locate the song further east.

Oft-compared to Ray Davies, following on from last year’s mental-health themed concept album, Silver Meadows, [Fables from the Institution], VINNY PECULIAR has released a new four track EP, The Fairer Sex (Shadrack & Duxbury SAD EP 012). Another concept collection, this time it centres around gender-linked identity, opening with gradually swelling piano-backed reincarnation ballad ‘I Came Back As A Girl’. Sexual exploitation provides the theme for ‘House of Girls’, a deceptively dreamy keyboards-led melody couching a lyric about porn webcams and the ‘gentlemen’s’ clubs run by the likes of Stringfellow and Hefner. Again built around melancholic piano, ‘No Reply’ is a wistful reflection on the end of a relationship (“I don’t want to be your new best friend, so I can never see you again”), while the final track, ‘Trial By Lingerie’, is a synth and percussive click track setting of a playful poem offering “a lighthearted look at male humiliation in an M&S Lingerie department.” Basque in its delights.

FAUSTUS – Death And Other Animals (West Park 87323)

Death And Other AnimalsDrawn from the ranks of Whapweasel and the now defunct Bellowhead, as well as other projects, self-styled ‘bloke folk’ trio, Paul Sartin, Benji Kirkpatrick and Saul Rose return with their third album, Death & Other Animals, the follow up to 2012’s Broken Down Gentlemen. For part of this year, they were Artists in Residence at Halsway Manor, the National Centre for the Folk Arts in Somerset, where they availed themselves of access to the extensive library, the material therein shaping the album and, in particular, featuring four songs from the hugely obscure archive of Somerset folklorist Ruth Tongue. Since they were already in situ, they also recorded the album (the cover of which features the bloody, mounted head of a vampire stag on the cover) at the Manor.

As well as the traditional numbers, there are two covers. ‘Oh To Be A King’, a six minute traditional-flavoured song about the lot of the working man written, but, as far as I can make out, never recorded by Bill Caddick, that features striking three part harmonies, melodeon and fiddle, ending in a lengthy Kirkpatrick instrumental coda entitled ‘King of the Discoed’. The other, another lengthy track at near seven minutes isn’t a cover as such, but, intoned by Sartin, rather a setting of Olivia McCannon’s poem ‘Gurt Dog’, a variation on familiar ghost dog tales, but, here, a rather more benign mutt that guides the hapless narrator, lost on the Quantocks, safely home.

Turning to the traditional, the album opens with the sprightly strummed mandolin, violin and bass drum thump of ‘Slaves/Foul Weather Call’, Scottish Chartist leader and poet William Sankey’s 1840 call on the sturdy men of England to throw off their chains, set to music by Kirkpatrick and rounded off with the traditional Sussex hop step.

The first of the Tongue numbers comes with a galumphing, fiddle rousing arrangement of ‘False Foxes’ that incorporates the open grave superstition and again rounds off with a traditional instrumental, ‘Idbury Hill’, taken from the Bledington Morris tradition. The second from the Tongue collection, arranged by Rose, is ‘The Deadly Sands’, scraping fiddle driving a shipwrecked themed number, sometimes known as ‘The Wrecker’s Song’, concerning the sands off Minehead and those that snare and plunder the ships driven upon them. Kirkpatrick gives a droning melodeon-led arrangement to the third from the archive, ‘The Death of the Hart Royal’, a mix of hunting song and Greenwood myth originating from or before the 15th century, while the last ends the album with the funereal march ‘Death Goes A-Walking’, a possibly 17th century tale of Death leading his victims in a danse macabre, suitably provided by snatches of Morris tune ‘The Black Joke’ which also brings things to a close with a dirge-like instrumental coda.

There’s three other traditional numbers, the first being a lively reading of ‘While Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping’, a tale of a hare poacher and his dog, drawn from assorted variants. They cross the ocean for ‘Adieu To Bon County’, a tale of having to leave home and (false) friends to seek fortune overseas with only glass and bottle for companionship, taken from the ballads and folk songs collected by John and Alan Lomax.

The final traditional tune, sturdily sung by Sartin, is ‘One More Day’, a muscular, if not indeed funky, shanty collected by Cecil Sharp from singing sailor John Short, a Watchet legend who fought in the American Civil War and, after retiring from the sea, became the local town crier and fire brigade commander. Featuring a couple of mandolin solos it’s neatly punctuated with a snatch of a Sartin tune titled ‘Heavy Weather’, and it’s a brace of original instrumentals that provide the album’s remaining track, Sartin’s arms-linked, romping fiddle –driven ‘Harry Kitchener’s Jig’ which segues into Kirkpatrick’s no less jubilant ‘The Piper’s Rehash’ with what may well be a wheezing Cor Anglais in the background. Beastly good.

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.

Artists’ website: http://www.faustusband.com/

The Mark Radcliffe Folk Sessions: Faustus

Faustus performing live for the Folk Show with Mark Radcliffe on BBC Radio 2 featuring songs from their new album Broken Down Gentlemen.

These three tracks were recorded on the 13th of March 2013 and is now available to download and preview from the amazon link below. These recordings are part of the ‘Mark Radcliffe Folk Sessions’ series and folking will be featuring  more sessions shortly for your listening pleasure.

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.

FAUSTUS – The Guildhall, Leicester 26th April 2013

faustus bandThe historic Guildhall in Leicester, currently next door to the highly prominent  Richard III museum, played host to folk trio Faustus on Friday 26th April.  A magnificent setting and deserved sell out as Faustus is made up of 3 superbly talented singer/songwriter musicians, 2 of which are well known in Bellowhead.  A rare treat when they are able to fit in a tour as Faustus due to other commitments, it was a real pleasure to be there.

Comprising of mandolin and acoustic guitar, fret board wizard Benji Kirkpatrick has played with amongst others – The Oysterband, Seth Lakeman Band, Eliza Carthy and Cara Dillon and is a member of highly acclaimed and multi award winning Bellowhead.  Paul Sartin, another member of Bellowhead, and founder of Dr Faustus and Belshazzar’s Feast, has impressive theory and studying credentials behind him, including a 1st in his Masters Degree studying Traditional Music.  He plays a might fine Oboe, sings in various choirs and apparently is a stand up comic too!  Saul Rose is one of the finest melodeon players in the country and was spotted by Eliza Carthy in the early 90’s. Saul is very involved with traditional music and has played the melodeon for most of his life.  He spent most of 2011 in Warhorse which was playing in the West End.  He has worked with an impressive list of prominent people.

The set list comprised of mainly songs but we were treated to some tunes as well.  7 for the first half and 7 for the second, finishing up with Willow as the encore.  The audience were singing along to Faustus most of the time, and clearly appreciated the talent, humour and musicianship coming at them from the stage.

On speaking to them afterwards, they were very happy with the evening, and had enjoyed themselves. I did send Benji off to see the Richard III exhibition, which the staff had kindly left open for the evening, and felt guilty when Paul couldn’t find him!

They do have two albums out for your delectation in-between gigs!

I hope it won’t be too long before they tour again.


Artist web link: www.faustusband.com

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 on the banner link 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.