ANGE HARDY – Esteesee (Story Records STREC1659)

ANGE HARDY – Esteesee (Story Records STREC1659)“Why Esteesee” asks Ange Hardy in her notes and it was a question I had asked myself in anticipation. The explanation is actually very simple. Esteesee or S.T.C. is Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the subject of Ange’s fourth album.

That Coleridge was what we might now call “a character” quickly becomes apparent as Ange picks out incidents from his life. ‘William Frend’ tells of Coleridge applauding during the trial of one of his college tutors who published a pamphlet condemning the Church liturgy. STC got away with it by blaming a one-armed man standing near him! His friendship with William and Dorothy Wordsworth is recounted in ‘Friends Of Three’; his relationship with his brother is explored in ‘George’ and a failed attempt to found a better life in America is examined in ‘Pantisocracy’.

Of course, Coleridge’s own writing plays a large part. The opening song, ‘The Foster-Mother’s Tale’, comes from a play and then we’re into The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner with two songs. The first, ‘My Captain’, is based on one of the few happy bits of the poem and will be claimed as traditional before long. It’s a song full of optimism and enthusiasm – complete with spoons by Jo May – and is in stark contrast to ‘The Curse Of A Dead Man’s Eye’. This is clever programming; the poem would be the elephant in room otherwise as would ‘Kubla Khan’ which is read by Tamsin Rosewell with accompaniment by Ange on guitar and whistle and Kate Rouse’s hammered dulcimer.

Other musical support comes from Steve Knightley, who takes lead vocals on ‘Mother You Will Rue Me’, Patsy Reid, Archie Churchill-Moss (of Moore Moss Rutter), Lukas Drinkwater (of Three Daft Monkeys), Jonny Dyer, Andrew Pearce and Steve Pledger. In her music Ange cleverly employs the rhythms and cadences of English traditional music, particularly apparent in ‘Along The Coleridge Way’ and the final ‘Elegy For Coleridge’. The packaging is equally good with excerpts from STC’s writing alongside Ange’s words. I’m not sure that every copy goes out with a greetings card, bookmark and “quill” pen but there have to be some perks in this job.

This is an excellent album. It’s rare that I’ll play a CD twice through without a break even for the purposes of a review. Esteesee is an exception.

Dai Jeffries

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.

Artist’s website: www.angehardy.com

DARIA KULESH – Eternal Child (Folkstock)

Eternal ChildShortly after I met Kara a cousin, not noted for her interest in folk music, mentioned that she’d heard them at a village fete and remembered Daria Kulesh vividly. Daria is like that: she is memorable, she’s a personality; and while the band is gearing up to start work on their second album she releases her debut.

Daria has not fallen into the trap of trying to make a Kara album. This is very different – ten original songs that are largely autobiographical, each one dedicated to family members or friends. The opening tracks establish her voice as the key instrument and my initial impression was of unexpected delicacy. Second time round I realised that there was a lot more going on. Producer Ben Walker plays almost everything and it is his guitar and piano that sets the first foundations. There are guest appearances from Kate Rouse, Kaity Rae, Luke Jackson and Lauren Deakin-Davies who also produced ‘Fake Wonderland’ and ‘Cracks’ but Daria and Ben hold centre stage.

The opening track, ‘Fata Morgana’, is for Daria’s fairy godmother and the dual meanings of the title, sorceress or mirage, are entwined in the song. It is here, perhaps, that Daria’s eternal child is rooted. Not that her reminiscences are all sweetness and light. The second song, ‘Letting Go’ (“for my first love”), contains a wicked put-down in its second verse. First love stays with you forever even if you don’t want it to.

There are three songs at the heart of the album which depart from the clear path of autobiography. In ‘At Midnight’, co-written with Igor Devlikamov, she confesses to being a witch which is probably not literally true although I agree that she casts a spell. Then comes ‘Butterflies’ which effortlessly deconstructs the usual metaphors and puts together an alternative view: “brittle butterflies break their wings on ignorance…too soon”. Even if you don’t know about Epidermolysis bullosa and “butterfly children” the metaphor still works on a different level for the eternal child forced to grow up. ‘The Hairdresser’ sounds like a flight of fancy and I hesitate to ask how much truth hides within its soap-opera story.

Daria writes strong melodies to go with her crystal clear voice and I wonder how much the music of her Russian childhood influences them. The result, however, is an album that rewards repeated listening and will be near at hand for quite a while.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to download a copy of the track or just listen to snippet of it 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.

Artist’s website: www.daria-kulesh.co.uk

Daria performs ‘Butterflies’. Not the best film but it also includes an important introduction to the song:

And here is the official video for ‘Right Here’:

KARA – Waters So Deep (own label)

Kara1I’m prepared to wager that very few albums begin with a lyric by Alexander Pushkin, particularly one that serves as a warning about what not to do when confronted by a naked young lady emerging from a lake. Particularly if you’re a monk. ‘Rusalka’ fulfils that very role and Kara return to a similar theme with ‘Mermaid’s Lullaby’, this by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, but you knew that.

By now you may be thinking that there’s something not quite run-of-the mill about Kara and you’d be right. Although based in Hertfordshire they sound decidedly pan-European – their instrumentation of guitar, accordion and hammered dulcimer gives them a chameleon-like ability. There are two writers in the band. Guitarist Ben Honey writes what might be termed the “western” material: ‘Hunter’s Moon’ is positively bucolic in a late sixties way and ‘Union Street’ finds an urban metaphor for a relationship. Lead vocalist Daria Kulesh brings exotic ideas rooted in Russian folklore – she provides the music for Pushkin’s words – and wrote the odd but compelling ‘In Lille’. With Gary Holbrook’s accordion taking on a Gallic lilt, it’s the story of a sixteen year old girl resisting the blandishments of a middle-aged married man. It’s a disturbing but magnificent piece of writing and she even makes the word Peugeot sound sexy.

Lots of tunes decorate the songs and there are two instrumental sets. The first is a real mashup, mixing Simon Jeffes’ ‘Music For A Found Harmonium’ with a tune from Irish band Kíla and Pachelbel’s ‘Canon In D’ while the second is a more English session set with tunes by Andy Cutting, the late Undine Hornby and Martin Ellison.

Kara reminds me a little of Dando Shaft, not so much for the way they sound – they are very different in that respect – but for the way they feel: that pan-European aesthetic. There is an air of mystery about both bands accentuated here by Kate Rouse’s dulcimer weaving through Daria’s vocals. I rather hope that Daria insists on conducting interviews in Russian with the aid of an interpreter but I’m sure she’s far too sensible. Shame. This is a brilliant debut album.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to download a copy of the track or just listen to snippet of it 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.

Artists’ website: www.karafolkband.com