LAURA SMYTH & TED KEMP – The Poacher’s Fate (Broken Token Records TOKEN 002)

FateI get to listen to a great deal of wonderful music in this “job” but nothing pleases me more than traditional songs from the British Isles and that is just what we have here. The Poacher’s Fate is the first full length recording by Laura Smyth and Ted Kemp following their EP, The Charcoal Black And The Bonny Grey. The material they present here frequently comes from their home regions, the north-west and East Anglia but even if you know the title you may not recognise the version of the songs. Being librarians by profession is a big help.

Their strength lies in vocal harmonies and Laura has a superb voice to take the lead. They use a number of instruments without identifying them: banjo, guitar, cello and concertina are fairly obvious and their arrangements are sparse. If you want to step back fifty years to the best of folk music performance of the past, only with better production values, this is the way to do it.

Poachers are the “heroes” of the title track which opens the set in unaccompanied harmony and there are plenty of cads and ruffians in this set. The second track, ‘Alison Device’, is the only non-traditional song but Laura’s skill as a songwriter makes it almost impossible to tell. The story of a girl condemned during the Pendle witch trials is initially accompanied by a cello drone before the banjo picks out highlights of the melody before becoming a full backing.

‘There Is A Tavern’ and ‘Murder In The Red Barn’ feature the real bad guys and ‘Cecilia’ is, in all but name, ‘Sovay’ in a variant learned from Gordon Hall. ‘Brave Benbow’ comes straight from the 60s but ‘Wild Rover’ is a more thoughtful version than the familiar foot-stomper. The less familiar material includes a set of 3/2 hornpipes, ‘Winder’s Hornpipe/Kill Him With Kindness’, ‘The Brown Hare Of Whitebrook’ by Saddleworth poet Ammon Wrigley and the tender ‘Carrickmannon Lake’ reflecting Laura’s ancestry in County Down.

Much praise has been heaped on Laura and Ted already and I won’t shy away from adding to the accolades. This is an excellent album of proper folk music.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: www.lauraandted.co.uk

‘The Poacher’s Fate’ – live at the Green Note:

Laura Smyth And Ted Kemp – new album and gig dates

Laura Smyth And Ted Kemp

The song that gives the album its name is also its first. And, unaccompanied with seamless harmonies, it’s a portent to what lies ahead. Laura Smyth and Ted Kemp’s voices are clear and well matched, a vigorous call to arms to the poacher’s lot.

Lead track, ‘Alizon Device’, is an original composition, a ballad that explores her condemnation during the Pendle witch trials. With one of the most singable choruses on the album, we wonder if Laura’s refrain: “where the sweet heather blooms all the day” is actually the composer’s homage to her own home region.

Though instrumentation across the album is wide and varied, arrangements are sensitive and spare. ‘There Is A Tavern’ sees yearning vocals backed by simple, mournful banjo, while ‘Here’s Adieu To All Judges And Juries’ builds gently, cello joined by guitar. Then, before we realise, they’re gone.

Though Laura and Ted favour the lesser known, and often from their native regions of the North West and East Anglia, there are popular choices here, too – but their thoughtful approaches mean that the listener is offered something new. In ‘Wild Rover’, Ted Kemp sings with such remorse that we feel we cannot join in, but let him continue in his catharsis. ‘Cecilia’ is rousing and triumphant, recounted by an omniscient narrator.

And, as to expected from two librarians, one of whom is also Director of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, liner notes are comprehensive, with song choices fully explained: the version selected, the additions and deletions made.

Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Ian Carter of Stick In The Wheel, a band known for their straight-up approach to tradition, The Poacher’s Fate is a record that will strike the listener for its passionate connection with the source material and its robust, full-blooded approach.

Artists’ website: www.lauraandted.co.uk

‘The Poacher’s Fate’ – live:

Remaining gigs

15 November 2017 Oakes Barn Pub, Bury Saint Edmunds

18 November 2017 Mill Race Folk, Bromham Mill, Bedford

25 November 2017 Heath Street Baptist Church, London

29  November 2017 Cross Keys Folk Club, Saddleworth

Marathon autumn program continues at Cecil Sharp House

EFDSS

Tilston and Lowe
Wednesday 8 November, 7.30pm
£14 | £10 under 26s

Steve Tilston and Jez Lowe, two of the UK acoustic/folk scene’s finest songwriters join forces for a concert filled with songs and music, chat and banter and intimate insights into their approach to their craft. Listen in as they rekindle the spontaneity of their late-night living-room song swaps.

 

An Evening with the Seeger MacColl Family
Thursday 16 November, 7.30pm
£18 | £10 under 26s

The Seeger MacColl family are one of folk music’s most loved dynasties. Singer, songwriter and feminist icon Peggy Seeger performs with Neill and Calum, her sons with Ewan MacColl.

Peggy long-awaited memoir, ‘First Time Ever’ will be published in October. To celebrate, Peggy, Neill and Calum will be touring a special related show in which she’ll mix extracts from the book with the songs that have meant the most to her over the years. Expect anecdotes from her long and remarkable career together with performances songs new and old.

The Stray Birds
Saturday 18 November, 7.30pm
£15 | £10 under 26s

The Stray Birds started as a duo of acoustic buskers when Maya de Vitry and Oliver Craven met with their instruments, their voices, and their songs. It didn’t take much convincing to get bassist Charlie Muench on board, and with the addition of a third unique and powerful voice, the group began to define its captivating sound. Since taking America by storm in 2013 they have gone on to win a huge fan base following appearances at big festivals around the world.

Trad Night – Thomas McCarthy
Wednesday 22 November, 7.30pm, £10

Thomas McCarthy is a man steeped in the tradition of Irish song, intoxicated by the music and passionate in his sensitivity towards them. He comes from a considerable dynasty of traditional singers, song-makers and musicians, and grew up surrounded by the singing of his late mother, her father and aunts and uncles. Having spent his life learning the songs of his family, in 2008 Thomas sang publicly for the first time at the folk club at Cecil Sharp House. By the following year, he had sung at the most prominent folk festivals and clubs in Ireland and England and had appeared on BBC radio.

Sam Kelly and the Lost Boys
Wednesday 29 November, 7.30pm
£14 | £10 under 26s

Sam is one of the most exciting young prospects in the folk scene, having gained a reputation for an incredibly high class and dynamic live show.

Coming from a family largely made up of Norfolk dairy farmers has left Sam with an unmatched experience of singing in front of hurtfully disinterested Friesians, and his meandering musical journey has ranged from reaching the final of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent as a teenager, to being selected for the first ever EFDSS Artist Development Scheme. Whether playing to 13 million people on prime-time television, or to 10 people in a tiny pub, Sam’s child-like fascination with music shines through.

Jess Morgan & Kitty Macfarlane
Wednesday 6 December, 7.30pm
£12 | £10 under 26s

Jess Morgan is a songwriter’s songwriter. Her performance is a tumbler of unfancied folk-roots music, with heart, passion and gusto.

Kitty Macfarlane’s songs are charged with a sense of place – more often than not her home county of Somerset – and her lyrics combine honest snapshots of everyday humanity with much bigger questions.

India Electric Co
Wednesday 13 December, 7.30pm
£12 | £10 under 26s

Sometimes folk, sometimes not. India Electric Company use traditional instruments in contemporary styles to explore diverse themes from Eastern Europe, Irish traditions and urban alienation to end up with something “quirky and glittery – a veritable musical magpie’s nest” (Mary Ann Kennedy, BBC Radio 3).

Belshazzar’s Feast

Thursday 14 December, 7.30pm
£15 | £10 youth

On tour with a Christmas-themed show that mixes traditional folk music, seasonal material, added to their usual touch of classical and jazz, with a bit of pop and music hall, all topped off with lashings of wry humour.  Paul Sartin (of Bellowhead and Faustus) and Paul Hutchinson (of Hoover The Dog) together wow audiences across the UK with their eclectic and eccentric mix of tunes and between songs chat that always sends audiences home with smiles on their faces.

Festive Gathering
Sunday 17 December, 7.30pm
£15 | £10 under 26s

Join for us our ever-popular, annual celebration of yuletide, with a chance to join in on the songs and merriment.

Cecil Sharp House Choir, led by Sally Davies, will perform joyful a cappella arrangements of traditional, seasonal songs, carols and wassails from the British Isles and beyond, sung in glorious harmony.  Folk dancers, singers and musicians will fill Kennedy Hall – the main space at Cecil Sharp House – with seasonal cheer.

For bookings go to: cecilsharphouse.org/csh-whats-on