WILL FINN & ROSIE CALVERT – Beneath This Place (Haystack HAYCD012)

Beneath This PlaceIt’s not often that you hear British traditional music played on steel pans but that’s what you’ll find here. Will and Rosie are half of The Teacups, known for their unaccompanied harmony but on Beneath This Place, their debut album as a duo, they expand their musical palette

The opening track comes as something of a surprise. ‘Banks Of Sacramento’ is a capstan shanty, possibly of German origin, from the days of the gold rush and Stephen Foster may have had a hand in it, or even nicked parts of it. Will and Rosie take it at a cracking pace that they couldn’t possibly keep up for a whole album. It may be my age but I find most of the songs to be comfortably familiar. There’s Dave Goulder’s ‘January Man’, Graeme Miles’ ‘The Shores Of Old Blighty’, ‘Paddy’s Lamentation’, Tennyson’s ‘Crossing The Bar’ and ‘The Cottager’s Reply’. They are all nicely done and the multi-tracked ‘Crossing The Bar’ is masterful but they can’t muster any of the venom that Chris Wood brought to Frank Mansell’s poem. Then again, who could?

The instrumental selections are more adventurous. The first set pairs the traditional ‘MacDonald’s’ with a Brazilian choro piece, ‘Tico Tico’, and the steel pans are at the forefront with Evan Carson’s percussion doing sterling work in support. Rosie’s two compositions are both a bit off the wall: ‘Scampo’ is modern mouth music sung over piano and percussion and ‘Gill’s Jig’, written for her mother’s birthday, cleverly incorporates multiple musical styles. Will composed one set, ‘Twenty Months At Sea/The Priory’,  and the final set pairs ‘Midwinter Waltz’ by Larry Edelman (not the most famous composer in the world) and complete with gramophone crackle with ‘Into The Unknown’, the theme from Over The Garden Wall.

It took me a while to settle into Beneath This Place. The playing and singing is excellent and I should mention Sam Partridge’s flute and whistles here. Perhaps my initial disappointment at the selection of songs was overstated – with repeated plays they provide moments of familiarity to contrast with the more adventurous material.

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).

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Artists’ website: https://willfinnandrosiecalvert.com/

‘Paddy’s Lamentation’ – live:

NINEBARROW – The Waters & The Wild (own label)

The Waters & The WildIf music be the food of love, then prepare for indigestion … was the title of a 1967 album by a band I’m not prepared to mention here. It’s not quite appropriate in this case for although The Waters & The Wild serves up some rich fare it is very digestible indeed. I think I’ll stop now before I stretch the metaphor with remarks about loosening the top trouser button and sleeping in an armchair with a newspaper over your face. You get the idea.

If you haven’t caught up with them yet, Ninebarrow are Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere. They are from Dorset and Dorset is a part of them and very much a part of this album. The record begins with two very contrasting songs. The first, ‘The Hour Of The Blackbird’, is a pastoral piece heralding the coming of spring and expanding the pagan idea of the winter and summer kings. It’s followed by ‘Halsewell’, the story of Dorset’s worst shipping disaster with dramatic vocals and a suitably thunderous accompaniment.

Jon’s multi-instrumental skills are augmented by James’ reed organ and various basses and drums, notably from Evan Carson, Joe Limburn and producer Mark Tucker with backing vocals from The Teacups. The biggest sound, however, comes from Barney Morse-Brown’s string arrangements recorded by him and Jane Griffiths and when I say big, I mean big.

‘Prickle-Eye Bush’ is a song that has come back into fashion again – or maybe it never went away – and I’m always tempted to skip over it on an album. Ninebarrow try to do something different with it and the hand percussion breathes some life back into it. That’s followed by ‘While Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping’ as borrowed from June Tabor. Neither of these songs are necessarily from Dorset but they could be. Jon and James immediately return home or ‘Hwome’ with that most Dorset of poets, William Barnes, but the song doesn’t overly rely on dialect and the arrangement is really nice, particularly in the outro section.

The title track is definitely an immigrant being derived from W B Yeats’ ‘The Stolen Child’ but the tune of ‘Row On’ was composed by another local, Tim Laycock and ‘Gather It In’ is a catalogue of old harvest customs. The last track is John Kirkpatrick’s ‘Sing A Full Song’, a song with a universal emotional appeal.

The lyrics and background information can be downloaded for free – lucky me, I received a pukka copy with the album; a rare case of a generous press agent. You know who you are. Although the words are not essential to the enjoyment of the album they, and the song notes, help to draw you into Ninebarrow’s musical world which is a very good place to be.

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.ninebarrow.co.uk

‘Prickle-Eye Bush’ – live:

THE TEACUPS –Of Labour And Love (Haystack HAYCD008)

THE TEACUPS –Of Labour And LoveUsually associated with the older generation of traditional folk singers, unaccompanied singing is making something of a comeback, not just with the occasional a capella number on an album or in the live set, but rather as a full-fledged style of performance. The recent success of The Young’Uns in the BBC Folk Awards is cited as evidence of the revival’s gathering strength, but unaccompanied harmony singing is only part of the trio’s approach, with some material employing guitar and accordion. However, formed while studying for a BMus Folk & Traditional Music Degree at Newcastle University, this quartet, Kate Locksley, Rosie Calvert, Alex Cumming and Will Finn, are strictly no instruments, relying only on their voices, both independently and interwoven.

All but two of the songs are traditional, three of which will be very familiar in folk circles, ‘My Son John’, a tale of being made legless by a cannonball, ‘Ye Mariners All’ with its handclap percussion (it’s interesting to note how many unaccompanied ballads have nautical themes) and, Locksley singing the verses with the others adding harmony on the choruses, ‘The Drowned Lovers’, learned from Kathryn Roberts, but with an added extra verse found in the Bodleian. The number itself comes from Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould’s collection, Songs Of The West, as does the album opener, ‘The Bellringing’, the sprightly tale of a Devon bellringing contest (the men of North Looe emerge victorious), Cumming taking lead with the harmonies emulating the cadence of the bells.

Moving from the West Country to the North East, ‘The Rapper Set’ has nothing do to with hip hop but refers to a folk dance involving short swords and fast stepping in hard-soled shoes and comprises the introductory ‘Calling On Song’ and two traditional tunes, ‘Drummond Castle’ and ‘Seven Stars’, with Finn providing the stepping and Calvert, who also arranged, doing the exhausting heavy lifting on the scat sung ‘lyrics’.

The group travel even further afield for ‘Sugar In The Hold’, a New Orleans cargo loading worksong set aboard the J.M.White steamboat from Mississippi, complete with a hearty ‘huah’ grunt from the guys. Then it’s back home for the last two of the traditional tunes, first up being much reworked and well-travelled sombre murder ballad ‘Oxford City’, deep voiced Calvert initially singing solo before first Locksley joins in on harmony. This is followed by my personal favourite, ‘Labouring Man’ (on which their voices are augmented by those of Gavin Davenport, Roberts & Gilmore, Stu Hanna, and Cliff Ward and Jade Rhiannon from The Willows), a song in praise of the English working man taken from 1890’s ‘Wiltshire Folk Songs and Carols’ collected by Rev. G. Hills (though I suspect a couple of lines are from the version collected by Folk-Song Society founder Lucy Broadwood from a Mr Sparks of Dunfold in 1896), the verse “In former days, you all do know, a poor man cheerful used to go…and for his labours it was said, a fair day’s wages he was paid, but now to live he hardly can, may God protect the labouring man”, revealing that little has changed in Conservative government policies between then and now.

The final two numbers are more contemporary, though Locksley’s ‘The Antiguan Graveyard’ could easily pass for traditional, the tune inspired by the jig ‘Coleraine’ and the stark lyrics by a documentary about a graveyard of British sailors forced to travel to the island to protect the sugar plantations during the 18th century. The album closes, appropriately enough, with the elegiac parting glass themed ‘Journey’s End’, a glorious four part harmony reading of a poem by Judy B. Goodenough set to music by Tommy Makem.

They say in the sleeve notes that they chose it partly “to symbolise the closing of an important chapter of our lives, individually and collectively, and the beginning of a new one.” On the evidence here, you’d be a mug not to part of it.

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.

Artists’ website: http://www.theteacups.co.uk/

‘Sugar In The Hold’ live: