Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage announce their new album and tour dates

Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage

Two years ago, Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage stirred the folk and acoustic world with a stand-out debut album and there’s been little slumbering since. Now they are set to release an arresting second studio album, Awake. The combination of Hannah’s outstandingly pure, clear voice, their perfect fit harmonies and Ben’s exquisite dobro are the rock-solid foundations of this rising duo, first witnessed in the 2016 album, Before The Sun. This quality pairing unarguably has hypnotic effect, painting aural dreamscapes around them in resonant songs that are given room to breathe.

When Hannah’s folk family travels across Europe and sojourn in America ended and she returned to her native East Anglia, a chance meeting at a Cambridge folk club with The Willows band member Ben was the start of something special. Ben went on to produce Hannah’s solo album Charms Against Sorrow before they ventured into duo territory uncorking a beguiling, intricately woven, ethereal sound all their own. Before the Sun saw them named in many Albums of the Year lists including the 2016 fRoots Critics Poll and hinted at a largely untapped song writing talent amongst the expertly executed traditional arrangements and covers. That song writing skill moves more centre stage in Awake – an album that shows them fulfilling all the promise heaped on them.

Once again, they have returned to Toronto, putting Grammy-nominated Canadian producer David Travers-Smith (Madison Violet, The Wailin’ Jennys) at the helm for this album crafted with infinite care. The eleven-track release has six strong originals alongside innovative arrangements of traditional songs and captivating covers from the Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie cannons. The eye-catching album cover by psychedelic artist Alan Forbes depicts the High Priestess and a deer as The Hanged Man from the tarot card deck and tarot icons run through the CD booklet. Says Hannah:

“We used tarot throughout the recording process to help us think and feel more deeply about the music.”

A duo who delve into the mysterious and often like to release music in line with the lunar calendar, their live show sees them huddled around a single microphone, drawing the audience in. And so it is with this magnetic album.

Alongside Hannah’s trademark mountain dulcimer and Ben’s delicious dobro, they both play guitars on the album. Adding their magic are guest musicians from both sides of the Atlantic – from the UK Jon Thorne on double bass, Evan Carson on percussion and Norwich singer songwriter Jess Morgan, Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts on additional vocals and from Canada Chris Coole on banjo, David Travers-Smith on horns and organ, Burke Carroll on pedal steel and on vocals, Vancouver-born American-Canadian alt country singer songwriter Suzanne Ungerleider who performs under the name Oh Susanna.

Entwined in the sturdy roots of English and North American music, Awake stirs with two original Sanders/Savage numbers – the mythical sea woman yearns to return to her spiritual sea home in the banjo-laced ‘Selkie Song’ and there is more heartache in ‘I Met A Man’, a modern retelling of the ancient story of love between a woman and a green man, with Burke Carroll weaving in his wonderful pedal steel.

The original material continues in ‘A Thousand New Moons’ – a luminous, gossamer-spun reflection on endings and beginnings, with Ben on lead vocal. The symbolic number 7 is the title of a song Hannah wrote for those who search for omens in the natural world, prompted by a friend desperate for a life change. The haunting instrumentation adds pedal steel and horns to Hannah and Ben’s guitar duet and the popular ‘One For Sorrow’ magpie nursery rhyme provides the chorus. The beautiful title track was originally written by Ben to tempt a talented friend out of a musical hiatus but has taken on a wider meaning and here it enjoys a lush vocal crescendo with the duo joined by Jess Morgan and Oh Susanna. Reaching is an exquisite, mellow, pin-drop perfect love song written by Hannah which closes the album in this duo’s soft tread style, building to a flourish which unusually features Ben on drums.

Awake is an album that stirs the soul and further endorses the empathetic class act that is Sanders and Savage. Released on May 11 on the Sungrazing Records label it will be distributed by Proper Distribution.

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: https://www.hannahbenmusic.com/

‘Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key’ – official video:

LIVE DATES

4th May Roots Music Club, DONCASTER

5th May Wath Festival, WATH

6th May Todmorden Folk Festival, TODMORDEN

11th May Golden Hind, CAMBRIDGE

15th May Heath St Baptist Church, Hampstead, London

16th May Biddulph Arms, STOKE ON TRENT

17th May The Musician, LEICESTER

18th May Greystones, SHEFFIELD

19th May The Hive, SHREWSBURY

20th May The Cut, HALESWORTH

25th May Ireby Festival, IREBY

26th May Florence Arts Centre, EGREMONT

1st June Ashcroft Arts Centre, FAREHAM

2nd June Caryford Community Hall, CASTLE CARY

3rd June Matthews Hall, TOPSHAM

27th June Arts Festival, SOUTHWOLD

29th June Limelight Theatre, AYLESBURY

30th June Courtyard, HEREFORD

7th July Folk Festival, KIMPTON

20th July Downend Folk Club, BRISTOL

 

HANNAH SANDERS & BEN SAVAGE – Before The Sun (Sungrazing Records SGR002)

Before The SunHannah Sanders first solo album, Charms Against Sorrow, was produced by Willows guitarist Ben Savage who also played on the record and shared in the arrangements. With Before The Sun their partnership has been formalised but little else has changed except that the duo went to Toronto to record with David Travers-Smith.

To the mix of traditional songs and covers is now added some originals and the first ‘The Fall (Hang)’ opens the set. I’m still puzzling over this track – it could be a reinterpretation of a murder ballad or a macabre accident like Bob Pegg’s ‘The Hanged Man’. I think I lean towards the former. Next is the first traditional song, ‘Come All Ye Fair & Tender Maids’, a mid-Atlantic version finished with a playground round. ‘What’s It Tonight My Love?’, another original, sees Ben take the first lead vocal. Its description of night in the city puts me in mind of ‘Chimes Of Freedom’ even though there is no resemblance between the two songs, other than the feeling that it leaves you with.

Next come three traditional songs. The first is ‘Lady Margaret’, an English song with variants in the United States. ‘Clayton Boone’ is definitely American and gives Ben another lead vocal and the chance to play Dobro. It is, of course, a variant of ‘Gypsy Davy’. Finally in this section we have the haunting ‘Deep Blue Sea’, a version that doesn’t quite match any set of lyrics that I can find. Hannah and Ben’s version is rather more gentle than the standard text and rather lovely.

Hannah and Ben play guitars, dulcimer and autoharp and are joined by Kevin Breit and Katriona Gilmore on melody instruments with Evan Carson and Jon Thorne on percussion and double bass. For the most part they are used sparingly but they do get to have a blow on Richie Stearns’ ‘Ribbons And Bows’. Joining them on vocals are Jim Causley, Robin Gillan and Jade Rhiannon.

The final track is ‘Boots Of Spanish Leather’ sung as a duet as it is written. They slow it down a bit and the singing is sad and wistful where Dylan managed a blend of bitterness and resignation. He knew the back-story, of course, and it all happened fifty years ago but I’d advise anyone tackling the song to read the relevant section of a biography. It’s beautifully performed, as is the whole of the album, but to an old curmudgeon like me it misses something.

Dai Jeffries

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.hannahbenmusic.com/

‘Come All Ye Fair And Tender Maids’ – official video:

GILMORE & ROBERTS – Conflict Tourism (GR! Records GRR006)

GILMORE & ROBERTS Conflict TourismI remember once, in Ireland, hearing that some American tourists’ idea of a fun day out was a taxi ride down the Falls Road. That kind of “thinking” forms the theme of this album, the fourth from Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts.

The opening track, ‘Cecilia’, is a very powerful way to start with double bass from Matt Downer and all manner of additions from producer Mark Tucker, notably the percussive crack presumably imitating gunfire. It’s followed by ‘Jack O Lantern’ which starts out quietly and builds up to a big finish with Phillip Henry on lap steel. It has the Devil ruminating on being tricked not once but twice by the titular Jack. Next come a song from each writer which seem to link: Katriona’s ‘She Doesn’t Like Silence’ and Jamie’s ‘Selfish Man’ and here’s where I need to turn to the lyrics which are available on their duo’s website. Both are about internal conflict: the former is decorated by Phillip Henry’s lap steel and Dobro while the latter once more benefits from mark Tucker’s programming. As a man brought up in Derbyshire I should really like ‘Stumble On The Seam’ more than I do but by now I was beginning to find that the music was overwhelming the songs.

‘Peggy Airey’ is about a 19th century Barnsley character with the narrator regretting his former cruelty to her and ‘Peter Pan’ is dedicated to Jamie’s cousin who died prematurely – another aspect of internal conflict – and the one song in the set that doesn’t try too hard. Katriona and Jamie seem bent on moving towards the mainstream and, while I can’t deny them their ambition, where they’re going may not be where I want to follow.

Dai Jeffries

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: www.gilmoreroberts.co.uk

‘Cecilia’ – the official video:

Gilmore & Roberts – new video

Gilmore & Roberts - new video
Photograph by Barnaby Aldrick

BBCR2 Folk Award nominees Gilmore & Roberts have unveiled the video to ‘Cecilia’, from their upcoming album, Conflict Tourism.

Conflict Tourism is the fourth album from award-winning duo Gilmore & Roberts. Following a year of touring in mainland Europe, Canada, and their native Britain, Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts noticed a common thread running through their latest crop of original songs. Conflict, whether an internal struggle between positive and negative, or a healthy body and a disease, is an everyday phenomenon captured perfectly by these 11 tracks.

Previously nominated twice at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Gilmore & Roberts cover a broader and more contemporary genre-spectrum than might be expected from a duo wielding guitar, fiddle and mandolin. Produced by Mark Tucker and featuring Matt Downer (Jamie Smith’s Mabon), Phil Henry (Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin) and James ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson (Bonnie Raitt), Conflict Tourism packs a considered punch from start to finish. From the industrial weight of ‘Cecilia’ and the insistent energy of ‘Peggy Airey’ to the hauntingly hypnotic ‘Jack O Lantern’, Gilmore & Roberts’ songwriting inflicts multiple earworms after a single listen.

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: www.GilmoreRoberts.co.uk

Songs For The Voiceless – Album release

SFTV_logo

Some of the UK’s finest folk artists formed a collective to release this autumn album marking the WW1 centenary and unlocking myriad muted voices of that time. Songs For The Voiceless (released October 13), will also be toured as a live show in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday. It brings together some of the brightest British roots talents, BBC award winners and nominees, including Bellowhead frontman Jon Boden and 2014 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Folk Singer of the Year, Bella Hardy.

The brainchild of Sheffield musician Michael J Tinker, of the Bright Season trio, it also features 2013 Folk Awards Best Duo nominees Katriona Gilmore & Jamie Roberts, elegant songstress Josienne Clarke, Ian Stephenson (KAN, 422, Baltic Crossing), Tom Oakes (Ross Couper and Tom Oakes) and Hartlepool’s popular The Young ‘uns (Sean Cooney, David Eagle, Michael Hughes.)

SFTVartists

Says Michael: “There are so many First World War stories to tell and with the passing of time more and more will be lost. Our aim was to use song to bring some of these stories to a wider public. We wanted to tell the tales of real people, whatever their opinions of the war, with all the passions and emotions they might have felt.”

In the skilled hands of top folk music producer Andy Bell, the end result is nine poignant original narrative songs and a bonus track, from the perspective of both soldiers and civilians, set in locations from English villages to the trenches. Inspired by poems, diaries, memoirs and books, the songs give a voice to the unheard – “everyman” stories from a period of history that impacted the lives of so many and left us mourning a lost generation of husbands, fathers and sons. Some of the tracks were inspired by the artists’ ancestors.

SFTVThe album release will be supported by a five day tour starting at Bury Met on Wednesday, November 5 followed by a London date at Kings Place, shows in two cathedral cities (Winchester and Salisbury) and Chatham’s Brook Theatre in Kent. The tour finale at the Salisbury Arts Centre will be on Remembrance Sunday.

Due to other commitments, the touring band will see BBC award-winning fiddle singer Jackie Oates replace Josienne Clarke while Matt Downer (bassist with Jamie Smith’s Mabon) will step in for Ian Stephenson at some gigs.

With many songs dedicated to individuals and all proceeds going to The Poppy Appeal the album is released on the Haystack Records label and distributed by Proper Music.

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.

Project website: www.songsforthevoiceless.co.uk

SUNJAY – Sunjay (New Mountain Music)

SunjayBorn in Derby and now living in Stourbridge, Sunjay Brayne has apparently been playing guitar since he was four. Still only 20, this is his second studio album (there’s also a live one) and he’s a regular on the folk and acoustic circuit. Having caught one of his sets, I can testify to his accomplished playing and warm, singing style and can well understand the comparisons to a young Ralph McTell. Indeed, Brayne’s influences are very much rooted in the late 60s and early 70s folk scenes of the UK and America, something evident from the choice of covers that comprise the bulk of his album.

Here you’ll find faithful readings of James Taylor’s ‘Close Your Eyes’, Jim Croce’s uptempo blues swing ‘You Don’t Mess Around With Jim’, a fiddle, cello, banjo and mandolin arrangement ‘Going Down The Road’ by folk cult figure Mary McCaslin and Tom Rush classic ‘No Regrets’ (with some nicely understated fiddle from Katriona Gilmore) as well as the slightly more recent ‘Memphis In The Meantime’ by John Hiatt (though it could do with more grit) and Mark Knopfler’s ‘Sailing To Philadelphia’ with its cello contribution from Sarah Smout. He also offers his own arrangement of traditional blues rag ‘Drop Down Mama’, though, as with the a capella handclap and stomp reading of Buskin and Batteau’s ‘A Folk Singer Earns Every Dime’, his voice and delivery simply lack the experience and depth to give them real conviction.

The two remaining numbers are originals, the album opening with ‘London Road’, a song about homelessness written by producer, manager, label owner and erstwhile Bushbury Mountain Daredevils frontman, Eddy Morton, and featuring Dan Walsh on banjo while ‘Sittin’ On Top Of The World’ is a wistful self-penned acoustic end of relationship folk blues ballad. Accompanied by Gilmore, it’s a lovely number, beautifully delivered, that makes you wish there were more of his own songs rather than relying on familiar tunes that may earn gig rapport, but which don’t really work in his favour on disc in terms of reaching a wider market. Hopefully, next time round, there’ll be more of his own material and although he could perhaps do with a little more seasoning to his voice to add a little occasional edge, he’s an accomplished player with a relaxed engaging style and I look forward to seeing him develop.

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.

Artist’s website: www.sunjay.tv

Sunjay sings John Martyn: