COVEN live at the West End Centre, Aldershot

Coven
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

Coven aren’t so much a group as a collective made up of three elements. On the one hand there is the musical delicacy of Lady Maisery and on the other the homespun Yorkshire charm that O’Hooley & Tidow exploit. In the middle is Grace Petrie, a thorn between two roses, and more of her anon.

They originally came together three years ago to celebrate International Women’s Day, which coincidentally was the date of this event, and their show still has that as its central theme.  Lady Maisery opened with ‘Sing For The Morning’ from their latest album followed by ‘Portland Town’, a remarkable arrangement featuring fiddle and feet before finishing with ‘The Crow On The Cradle’.

Next came Grace Petrie who I hadn’t heard before. She’s something of a fire-brand and the wit of her stage chat carries over into her writing. Her first song, ‘A Revolutionary In The Wrong Time’, describes her career: “not folky enough for Whitby; not cool enough for Cambridge” is her self-deprecating description. The second song, written for her niece Ivy, describes rushing away from Glastonbury to be home for her arrival. It is probably the most unsentimental sentimental song you’ll hear and Grace wrapped up her set with her contender for the new national anthem, ‘God Save The Hungry’. I really liked her and her crusade to prove that there are still protest singers around – and that there is still a need for them.

Belinda and Heidi chose three songs about inspiring women: ‘Beryl’ and ‘The Pixie’ from Shadows and ‘Too Old To Dream’ from their first album. Three songs about three very different women in very different circumstances.

Coven only sang six songs as a unit, the six that appear on their EP, ‘Unholy Choir’, and I found that a little disappointing. The first of these closed the first half: Rowan Rheingans’ new setting of ‘Bread And Roses’ which dispenses with the martial rhythm of the more usual version.

The second set followed a slightly different pattern. O’Hooley & Tidow opened with ‘Gentleman Jack’ and ‘The Needle & The Hand’ before bringing the whole group together for ‘Coil & Spring’. Lady Maisery did likewise with ‘Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood’ and ‘Order And Chaos’ before ‘This Woman’s Work’. Grace’s two solos led into ‘If There’s A Fire In Your Heart’ to close the show.

Well, of course, there were two encores; The Roches’ ‘Quittin’ Time’ and ‘Never Turning Back’ and Coven really gave us our money’s worth with a show that lasted well over two hours and never outstayed its welcome. There are five gigs left on this tour and that will be it until next year unless the rumours of summer festivals are true. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ websites: http://ohooleyandtidow.com/
https://www.ladymaisery.com/about
http://gracepetrie.com/

Venue website: https://hampshireculturaltrust.org.uk/

‘This Woman’s Work’:

COVEN – Unholy Choir (own label COVENCD01)

Unholy ChoirIn case you haven’t been paying attention, let me explain. Coven combines the prodigious talents of Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow, Lady Maisery (Hazel Askew, Hannah James and Rowan Rheingans) and Grace Petrie. They have worked together, when commitments permit, for about three years having got together for International Women’s Day but Unholy Choir is the first time they have recorded. A word of warning, though, this six-track EP will only be available at gigs on their tour starting on March 1st.

Much of the material is drawn from back catalogues but these are all new recordings that combine the power of six voices and their instrumental skills. The opening track is ‘Coil & Spring’, written by O’Hooley and Tidow with the assistance of Boff Whalley about the Pussy Riot protest. I must have chosen itself as it gives the EP its title. Next is ‘Bread & Roses’. Rowan has given the song a new tune which makes it less of a march with a much more English feel. An inspired move.

‘This Woman’s Work’ is an obvious choice and Kate Bush’s song gives the group something to get their musical teeth into but, being old and male, I prefer ‘Quitting Time’ by the late Maggie Roche. Its footloose feel is enhanced by Belinda’s rolling piano but softened by the sweetness of six voices in harmony. Grace wrote ‘If There’s A Fire In Your Heart’ and she sings it an appropriately confrontational style. The message is simple: get out there and do something, however small.

The final track was recorded live. It’s Pat Humphries’ anthemic ‘Never Turning Back’. It’s a song I didn’t know from a writer I hadn’t heard of but I wasn’t surprised to learn that Pat knew Pete Seeger. Coven sing it a capella (the way Pat does) using the natural acoustics of Cooper Hall where they made the record and it brings the set to a rousing, optimistic close.

You have twelve chances this year to hear Coven live and acquire a copy of Unholy Choir. Don’t miss out.

Dai Jeffries

Tickets: www.ohooleyandtidow.com/gigs

‘This Woman’s Work’ live:

Belinda O’Hooley talks to Folking about Coven

Coven
Photograph by Elly Lucas

There’s a new gang in town and if their publicity photographs are any guide they mean business. Coven combines the talents of O’Hooley & Tidow, Lady Maisery (Hazel Askew, Hannah James and Rowan Rheingans) and singer Grace Petrie. Belinda O’Hooley explains how it all came about.

“We were introduced to Grace’s work by Huw Pudner at The Valley Folk Club in Pontardawe. He was raving about her, and around the same time, Jude Abbott from the No Masters Co-op was also singing her praises. We watched some of her stuff on YouTube and thought she was such a firebrand, standing up for what she believes in and doing great things for women. We spent a summer doing the same concerts at festivals as Lady Maisery and were blown away by their live show. We got to know them along the way. Heidi and Rowan chatted about doing something as a collective at some point, and here we all are!

“Coven was Heidi’s idea. She had previously set up a Women Make Music night in Huddersfield and had experience of this sort of thing. Both Lady Maisery and Grace Petrie were well up for forming a collective with us and celebrating International Women’s Day in a series of concerts. The first Coven tour was just three dates which all sold out. The second year, we played ten dates and this year, we’ve got twelve.”

The name could be something of a hostage to fortune. Whose idea was it?

“I can’t remember who thought the name up, it wasn’t me. I think it suits us; a gaggle of witches.”

I couldn’t possibly comment on that but the press photos seem to suggest that Belinda and Heidi are the dominant force. Either that or it’s a case of big’uns in the middle and little-uns on the ends.

Coven
Photograph by Elly Lucas

“Ha! I think it looks like me and Rowan have got married and the rest of Coven are our bridesmaids. Elly Lucas took the photo at Kellam Island in Sheffield. We love the way she utilises the background of a rusty metal fence with the sunlight, to create texture and atmosphere. She’s a bit good. Looking at that photo, I wouldn’t want to mess with any of us.”

Again, I couldn’t possibly comment but what can we expect from a Coven gig?

“The show consists of us performing separately in our bands and also collectively together on existing material and also songs that Coven members have brought to the group. Over the course of the last two tours, these songs have taken on a life of their own and it has been very rewarding and exciting to record them and make an EP.”

Having developed rather below the radar over the last couple of years, Coven are embarking on a fully-fledged tour in March. Can we take it that Coven will be an on-going project?

“I think all of us want Coven to be an ever developing project as we all have so much to give to it. We all seem to get on really well and there is room for creativity and expression both individually and as a collective. It helps that we all like vegan food too. Hannah James is the most wonderful vegan chef, and kept us all fed beautifully for the five days we spent at Cooper Hall, Frome recording the EP. Fay Goodridge invited us there, and through their bursary scheme, we were able to record in their extraordinary venue. This EP, recorded by me and Heidi and mixed and mastered by Neil Ferguson will be available initially exclusively on the tour”

And that’s something else to look forward to.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ websites: http://ohooleyandtidow.com/ https://www.ladymaisery.com/about
http://gracepetrie.com/

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Land Of Hope & Fury (Union Music Store UMS009)

Land Of Hope & FuryLand Of Hope & Fury is a collection of contemporary protest songs – a compilation inspired by the realisation on May 8th 2015 of the enormity of what the British people had done. Not just the greedy and the fascists but also those too pusillanimous to stand up for what they actually believe in. We can thank Stevie and Jamie Freeman for the work that went into putting it together.

The album opens quietly with Luke Jackson’s ‘Forgotten Voices’, the story of an old soldier left on the scrapheap feeling that his voice counts for nothing. It may be better to protest by whispering in someone’s ear than screaming in their face and even Mark Chadwick is quite restrained but I kept having the feeling that what the record needed was one really good rant. Moulettes’ ‘Lullaby’ is a lovely song but it’s somewhat opaque in this context. ‘The Hum’, from O’Hooley & Tidow’s third album takes a positive line, one that’s on the side of working people. OK, it sticks it to the aspirational middle class but that’s almost incidental.

Lucy Ward’s ‘Bigger Than That’ is a real killer track – still quiet but with uncompromising lyrics and ‘Filthy Lucre’ by The Mountain Firework Company does the same to the sound of a hillbilly banjo. There are excellent songs from Phil Jones, Will Varley and Chris T-T and Plumhall’s ‘Never Forget My Name’ serves as a warning to the slavers and taskmasters and Grace Petrie’s ‘If There’s A Fire In Your Heart’ acts as a rallying cry.

So, this is a really good collection of songs for our troubled times but, you know what, it still needs one really good rant.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: https://unionmusicstore.com/label/land-of-hope-and-fury

Plumhall – ‘Never Forget My Name’:

Land Of Hope & Fury – what it’s all about

Land Of Hope & Fury

A message from Jamie & Stevie Freeman:

We woke up on May 8th to election results that left tens of millions of people feeling disenfranchised and without a voice. Rather than wait quietly for another five years before we got to have our say, we decided to return to the proud musical tradition of the protest song. Our votes might have counted for nothing, but we could still make our voices heard.

We contacted our many friends in the roots music world and asked them to contribute something to a compilation of contemporary protest songs, and the results were an incredibly diverse range of musical, emotional and political styles. Land Of Hope & Fury was born. Sixteen artists in total donated songs with nine of them written specifically for the album. This coming together of people, all acting out of simple desire to make the world a better place, has been the single most encouraging aspect of this project, It is the proof that Margaret Thatcher’s suggestion that “there’s no such thing as society” is as wrong today as ever it was.

38 Degrees

We didn’t want to profit financially from the album, so we looked for a suitable beneficiary that was aligned with our frustrations, but not bound to one set of policies. Politics had let us down, so a campaigning group from outside of the political system seemed like a good choice. We felt 38 Degrees’ mix of online petitioning and real-world actions was just right for Land Of Hope And Fury, and they were delighted to take part. We couldn’t be happier to have them alongside us.”

Jamie’s brother Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, The Office, Sherlock) made a video supporting the Labour Party, so his family are no stranger to politics.

Track List

Luke Jackson – Forgotten Voices
Mark Chadwick (Levellers)  –  No Change
Emily Barker – Doing The Best I can
Moulettes – Lullaby
Lucy Ward – Bigger Than That
The Jamie Freeman Agreement – Homes for Heroes
The Self Help Group  – Funeral Drum
The Dreaming Spires – Follow The Money
Mountain Firework Company – Filthy Lucre
Phil Jones (Hatful Of Rain) – New Homes
O’Hooley & Tidow – The Hum
Will Varley  – The Sound Of The Markets Crashing
Chris TT – A-Z
Plumhall – Never Forget My Name
Grace Petrie – If There’s a Fire In Your Heart
Danni Nicholls  – A Little Redemption

Buy it from https://unionmusicstore.com