BELLA HARDY – Hey Sammy (Noe NOE10)

Hey SammyHer ninth solo outing, this is very much Hardy’s ‘pop’ album, a dramatic change in sound an style resulting from a brief relocation to Nashville and a seven-week residency in Kumming in Southwest China (which itself gave rise to Eternal Spring earlier this year, a live collection of song and poetry with Chinese musicians). Recorded with the backing of Iain Thomson on guitars, Tom Gibbs on keys and clarinet, and the rhythm section of James Lindsay and John Blease, with Hardy on fiddle, harmonium and xylophone and Paul Savage in the producer’s chair, it opens with Chinese colours evident on the chiming notes that introduce and underpin the dreamy ‘Redemption’, a folk song about friendship and kindness to others, enrobed in almost show tune clothes.

Driven by a beating tribal drum rhythm, the poppy ‘Learning To Let Go’ details feelings of displacement and search for self as she sings of being a stranger in California looking for “another way of being known another way of being” but that also “I know the who but I still don’t know what I want to be.”

Co-penned with Thomson, ‘Driving Through Harmony’ gets a touch funky in a West Coast style and is followed by the first of two-writes with Nashville’s Peter Groenwald. First up is the mid-tempo ticking rhythm ‘Queen Of Carter’s Bar’, a country-tinted fading relationship number that, a loose rework of ‘Tam Lin’, again concerns identity (“I’m watching you pretend to be the thing you’re aren’t”), followed by the keyboards balled ‘In My Dreams’, which, with added input from Konnad Snyder, is a suitably hushed and atmospheric weave with a percussive ebb and flow.

A particular standout is the self-penned ‘You Don’t Owe The World Pretty’, a punchy jangling feminist pop song about women taking ownership of their bodies and their lives that comes with a surging chorus rush. It’s followed by the two collaborations with Scottish jazz pianist and composer Tom Gibbs, the first being ‘Busy Head’ (tracing the familiar theme of “so desperate to fit in and so in need of staying apart”) that again, especially in its swelling flourishes, has the air of a Broadway showstopper, as indeed does the gathering swell of piano-led ‘Heartbreaker’, a song about “a neon jazz folk love affair” you might imagine Elaine Paige covering.

Next up comes the title track, its jaunty guitar chug and big burst choruses belying the song’s subject matter concerning the rise of racism in Britain, followed, in turn, by ‘South Lake’, a piano-based, clarinet-shaded number inspired by and referencing Nan Hu, meaning South Lake, a stretch of water in Yunnan province, in its contemplation of being and our connection with the world around us.

The lyrics conjure thoughts of Chinese poetry and, indeed, one such provides the source for the closing shimmering six-minute ‘Stars’. It’s a studio rerecording of the number originally featured on Eternal Spring, a two part lyric that combines words adapted from poem 21, written in praise of Yunnan, in the Shijing, a collection of some three hundred ancient poems sometimes translated as The Book of Songs, with Hardy’s own response, both set to her spirits soaring tune.

The press blurb talk of it as a ‘glorious…grown up’ record, I think a magnificent coming of age might be a better term.

Mike Davies

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 HERE link 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.

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Artist’s website: www.bellahardy.com

‘Driving Through Harmony’ – official video:

Iain Thomson – FIELDS OF DREAMS

Artist – Iain Thomson
Title – FIELDS OF DREAMS
Label – Self Released

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE…

I first heard of Iain Thomson from a DJ friend of mine who pointed me in his direction. Frankly I was stunned when I heard what superb music and lyrics he produced. There is an honesty and pure ‘down home’ feel to his work that make it appeal to all fans of folk/Americana and roots music in general. As a shepherd on the Isle of Mull, Iain has a unique perspective on what surrounds him and when he puts down his thoughts and ideas inspired by the beautiful landscape and diverse wildlife where he resides the result is truly magical. Iain did have a spell living on the mainland and has also travelled the world, this all helping to build his rich storybook of songs, but the Isle of Mull had a strong pull and he’s back living on the island that he loves, continuing to shepherd and compose words and music. The album that you have in your hands is the fruit of his inspired life and travels.

FIELDS OF DREAMS is a superb collection of twelve songs all from the pen of Iain Thomson. One of the most heartfelt and emotional tracks on the album is The Old Country, inspired by an old lady that Iain met while having a spell sheep shearing in New Zealand, she relayed a tale of an ex pat from Scotland who married a New Zealand born girl but always had a longing to return to ‘the old country’, years later after his wife died he managed to make just one more visit to Scotland before he himself sadly passed away. Iain also spent time driving large trucks up and down the UK and the song The Southern Line is dedicated to truckers worldwide who keep the supplies moving.

The album was recorded, mixed and mastered at the B&B Studios in Edinburgh with founder member of Capercaillie Marc Duff at the controls. Mark also plays on the album and other notable musicians lending their talents include fellow Capercaillie member Charlie McKerron, award winning Gaelic singer Maeve MacKinnon, Gordon Maclean who has worked with Michael Marra and Corrina Hewat and not forgetting one of Scotland’s finest accordion players Gregor Lowrey. A short UK tour is planned for later in 2010 including a possible appearance at the Tarbert Music Festival in Argyll and a longer tour of UK folk clubs is planned for the spring of 2011.

“The Singing Shepherd has grown up, in the Fields of Dreams.”

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.

For more information and the latest tour news please visit www.iainthomsonband.co.uk