Daphne’s Flight talk to Folking.com

Daphne's Flight

Reunited after a 21 year gap in 2017, Daphne’s Flight brings together the talents of five highly acclaimed singer-songwriters: Julie Matthews, Chris While, Melanie Harrold, Helen Watson and Christine Collister for a veritable rootsy flavoured supergroup!

Last year’s Knows Time, Knows Change, the surprise (and belated) sequel to 1996’s eponymous debut, was accompanied by a successful UK tour which has now resulted in a third album from the quintet. The soon to be released Daphne’s Flight Live features a collection of songs from both their studio albums, along with several new choices, and arrives with a series of live appearances beginning at Oxfordshire’s Towersey Festival (24-27 Aug 2018).

“We all bring two songs to the table that we think will work as a group,” explains Chris While, of the group’s way of working. “These [songs] can be original new songs or covers, they can be old songs too that we think are worth re-working.

“If one or two of us don’t think a song will work, out it goes – obviously it can only work if the whole group loves the song. As everyone is very versatile and has vast vocal ranges, dynamics and experiences, the decision of who will sing what is really easy, and it just falls into place.”

Despite their long period of silence, everyone in Daphne’s Flight has remained close, often performing with each other in various combinations. As a result, they work well together, dividing roles between them.

“We are all very old friends now,” says Chris, who is also one half of a firmly established duo with Julie. “I have known Christine since the ’80s and Mel, Julie and Helen since the early ’90s. We want what’s best for each other and are a very supportive and diplomatic group.

“Of course, as we all live so far apart, really far – Essex, London, Sheffield and The Isle of Man – a lot gets decided on the phone, email and FaceTime regarding the managing of the group, but when we rehearse we spend up to a week together, which is really bonding and amazing, and the songs really flow.

“In between, I do the website, Julie and Christine take care of social media, and this year Mel and Christine have been doing lots of interviews and media stuff.

“Helen Watson grows marvellous vegetables and makes us laugh,” she adds with a smile.

The live album sums up the group’s approach perfectly, and finds them calling on a variety of influences from traditional and country (Susanna Clark and Richard Leigh’s ‘From The Heart’), to gospel and soul (Percy Sledge’s ‘Out of Left Field’).

“Daphne’s Flight is steeped in the heritage of contemporary and traditional music,” says Melanie. “Our repertoire ranges from the fantastical of myth and fairy tale to songs of land and plough, of growth and renewal. In our set there are tales of seas and safe harbours and anthems of political social and economic change.

“We unify these influences through beautiful layers of blended harmony, inspired arrangements and ‘stop you in your tracks’ singing,” she says. “We are a very British band of women with a world of experience, embracing the land of the Celts and the Saxons, the mountains of Appalachia and the basin of the Mississippi.”

Although Daphne’s Flight are very much active, all members continue to juggle the group with their own projects.

Says Chris: “Well Julie and I never seem to stop. We are performing in BBC Radio 2’s Friday Night is Music Night on the 9 November [2018] with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. It’s a life-long ambition of mine to sing with a great orchestra. The theme is Radio 2’s Ballads of the Great War. A lot of the songs were written by the brilliant Julie, and I got to sing many of them.

“Then we have the Ballads Of Child Migration UK tour (November), which is very exciting. The awesome line-up is Barbara Dickson, narrating, singer songwriters, me and Julie, Jew Lowe, Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow, Boo Hewerdine and John Doyle. And the band, as always will be John McCusker, Michael McGoldrick, Andy Cutting and Andy Seward … wow! The show is a very levelling and emotional experience and the music is beautiful with a large screen featuring testimonies from former Child Migrants.”

And then there’s a certain significant birthday looming …

“2019 is the 25th anniversary of the duo,” Chris confirms. “Julie and I will be recording a new album in the spring followed by a busy festival season in the summer all leading up to a big autumn tour to celebrate our silver jubilee!

“As well as all the wondrous things that Chris has mentioned we have coming up, I’m also excited to have been asked to be part of another songwriting project in 2019 that commemorates the 100th anniversary of the peace celebrations after WW1 along with Greg Russell, Findlay Napier and Bella Hardy,” interjects Julie.

The others are just as busy.

Helen: “I have been working with Snake Davis (horns) and Dave Bowie Jnr (double bass) for several years now, and we have gigs coming along into next year. No plans for any solo stuff now. Happy in collaboration!”

Christine: “I’ve been blessed with numerous collaborations over the intervening years and there was a ten year period where I was a predominantly solo performer. More recently I’ve been working with a brilliant Australian guitarist – Michael Fix – and have worked in Australia for a number of years, and we’re now branching out into the UK performing scene, with a handful of shows this November, and a three week tour in October 2019. We have one studio album, Shadows and Light, and a second one in the making ready for next year’s UK tour.

“I also have a delightful but intermittent musical partnership with Dave Kelly (of Blues Band fame) … we have a live CD with our band The Traveling Gentlemen from 2006, but only a few weeks ago performed as an acoustic duo at the Vancouver Island Music Festival. We enjoyed it so much we’re planning a duo tour for next May,” says Christine, whose first two studio albums, Blue Aconite and The Dark Gift of Time, have been re-released “as a double CD package with a foreword from myself talking about my thoughts on then and now. Quite a ride!”

Melanie: “I am working a new CD of original songs with Harvey Summers at Broadoak Studios in Bexhill. I also develop, write and arrange for performing amateur a cappella choirs. In June, Vocal Chords Choir launched Songs of Protest in aid of Praxis at The Conway Hall in London. In the autumn of 2019 we will be presenting our project on Home and Homelessness. Trade Winds is a multi-access European women’s choir that develops collaborative cultural exchanges with choirs throughout the community.”

So where does that leave Daphne’s Flight?

“We plan to do more,” says Christine, suggesting new material for a 2019 studio album will be aired for the first time at Towersey.

It seems Daphne’s still in flight…

Dave Freak

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Artists’ website: www.daphnesflight.com

The reunion gig – Cambridge 2017:

THE JIGANTICS – Seconds Out (Rawtone RTR20078)

Seconds OutThe Jigantics’ debut album, Daisy Roots, was a fun, slightly eccentric set that failed to disguise the band’s serious intent and their second outing, Seconds Out, is rather less light-hearted. That’s not to say that there is any lack of imagination or music to rock along with – far from it – but there are fewer laughs here.

As before, they have drawn material from far and wide to add to four originals written by Martin Fitzgibbon with help from Mark Cole. The set opens with ‘Take Me For Longing’, originally by Alison Krauss but here nicely rocked up. That’s followed by one of the most original takes on a punk song you’ll ever hear. ‘Rebel Yell’ has been taken apart, cleaned and oiled and put back together in what initially reminds me of film noir, if that makes sense, but builds inexorably to a climax and is stretched out to more than five minutes – unheard of when it was written.

As well as the opener, Marion Fleetwood is given the lead on two of the slower, perhaps more dramatic songs. The first is Richard Shindell’s much-covered civil war song, ‘Reunion Hill’, and the second, which reflects its sentiments, is James Grant’s ‘I Will Not Wear The Willow’ on which she shares the vocals with Christine Collister and becomes a complete string section as the song moves to its close.

The light-heartedness comes from the original compositions. ‘Radio’ begins with a clever double entendre, ‘Frankly’ wraps up its politics in an upbeat arrangement and ‘Hate To See You Go Love To Watch You Walk Away’ speaks for itself. Martin Fitzgibbon’s closer, ‘Angels Wings’ proves that there is great depth to his song-writing and that he’s good for so much more than the light relief.

Every member of the band is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist. Rick Edwards and Lyndon Webb produce note-perfect acoustic guitar fills with assistance from producer Aaron Taylor and Lyndon provides bass, keyboards and second fiddle while Rick and Mark Cole offer slide guitar. Throw in accordion, harmonica, mandolin and Fitzgibbon’s drums and percussion and you have a hell of a band here, not to mention a hell of fine record.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: www.thejigantics.com

The Jigantics’ album launch sound-check at The Convent:

The Armistice Pals

armistice pals header non internetEveryone remembers the charity version of ‘Perfect Day’ with its myriad of voices from the pop and rock world.

Let’s hope everyone will also remember the upcoming answer from the Folk World – ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’ – with a plethora of voices from across the acoustic folk and roots spectrum representing the great and the good, young and the old, seasoned and emerging, all on the same single. The group is called The Armistice Pals and is releasing a fitting tribute to Pete Seeger, who sadly passed away this year as well as marking the 100 years anniversary of the breakout of the First World War. All profits will be distributed between four peacekeeping charities.

However, perhaps it’s not a perfect world after all and the late Pete Seeger’s classic anti war song, ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’, points a finger at the carnage, supposedly ‘ the war to end all wars’ which tragically mislead us to believe it was worth the sacrifice.  The sacrifice, not only of the lives of those who died, but the resultant desolation and struggle of the loved ones who were left behind. Whole swathes of communities were left bereft of their young men-folk who trustingly signed up into ‘Pals Battalions’, many of whom were never to return, with those who did too often spending lives blighted by the experience.

Armistice Pals is the name of the folk community ‘super band’ who are all performing on this single, which is due out on Remembrance Sunday, 9th November 2014. It was the brain child of Damian Liptrot (manager of folk-rock band Merry Hell), who, as the project expanded, has invited Folkstock’s Helen Meissner on board as co-organiser. The project has attracted over 30 names including Chris and Kellie While, Julie Matthews, Judy Dyble, Christine Collister, Dave Swarbrick, Ray Cooper, Sally Barker, Peter Knight, Boo Hewerdine, Gavin Davenport, Blair Dunlop, Lucy Ward, Ken Nicol, Merry Hell, Luke Jackson and Kelly Oliver. A line up so good that, were it to be a festival, it would undoubtedly be the event of the summer.

The single will be released via the usual digital outlets as well as a physical CD and as a nod to the historical element, a limited edition vinyl 45, on new community label, Folkstock Records.

As this is intended to be a community project, we are inviting Folk Clubs across the country to contribute by organising an ‘Armistice Pals Night’ during the week of the release of the single. This can take any form but should include a collective version of ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’ at some point during the evening, followed by a passing round of the hat to support the Armistice Pals charities.

If you would like to know more about the project, all the artists, the charities and the inspiration can be found at http://www.armisticepals.com or contact us direct via armisticepals@hotmail.co.uk

We hope that you will feel able to enlist and offer your support.

Helen and Damian
for The Armistice Pals

THE ARMISTICE PALS: A FULL LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS

Attila The Stockbroker (poet/musician and sheer force of nature, whose father survived the Somme).

Billy Mitchell (one time Jack the Lad, ex-Lindisfarne and much else besides).

Blair Dunlop (One of our brightest, youngest singer-songwriters, currently telling tales from the ‘House Of Jacks’, he also found time for a stint in The Albion Band..).

Bob Pegg (Storyteller, singer-songwriter and member of the legendary Mr Fox).

Boo Hewerdine (one time Bible basher, all time songwriting phenomenon).

Chris While and Julie Matthews (singers, songwriters, multi-instrumentalists, award winners in their own right and members of more prestige bands and projects than you can shake a stick at).

Christine Collister (one time She Devil, ex-Daphne’s Flight, much sought collaborator and loved by Q magazine).

Dave Mather & Peter Robinson (singer/songwriters (one of them has written an opera you know), ex-Houghton Weavers, stand up comedy and currently presenters of Salford City radio’s first folk show).

Dave Swarbrick (simply a living legend. As it says on the flyers, ‘needs no introduction’).

Edwina Hayes (multi-million You Tubed singer-songwriter with the ‘sweetest voice in England’).

Eric Bazilian: (Hooter, hitmaking songwriter worldwide for self and others, now he’s One Of Us!).

Flossie Malavialle (multinational singer et chanteuse aussi, gig travelling traffic reporter).

Gavin Davenport (much vaunted solo singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, award winning, ex-Albion band member).

Gren Bartley (the spine tinglingly beautiful guitarist, banjo playing poet).

Helen Watson (Singer/Songwriter, multi genre artist, producer and erstwhile member of Daphne’s Flight, Carmel and Sons of Arqa, as well as taking a great photo).

Johnny Coppin (broadcasting singer-songwriter, ex-Decameron and now sufficiently multi-faceted to be considered a true diamond).

Judy Dyble (singer/songwriter, ex-Fairport, nearly King Crimson and Facebook dog blogger).

Kellie While (singer-songwriter considered to have one of the outstanding voices of her generation, ex-member of The Albion Band and so much else, her arrival makes The Pals a family affair as her mother and sometime singing partner Chris is also involved).

Kelly Oliver (singer/songwriter, guitarist and harmonicist who has taken Boots Of Spanish Leather to places most of us can only dream of).

Ken Nicol: (globetrotting, guitar endorsing, ex-Albion Band and Steeleye Span virtuoso).

Kevin Brennan MP (an accomplished musician, fan of folk music and passionate supporter of live music).

Lavinia Blackwall (the vocalist who is both a Trembling Bell and a Crying Lion).

Linda Simpson (singer/songwriter, ex-Prog/Folk/Rock legends Magna Carta and supplier of some ideas that are so good that I’d like to present them as my own).

Lucy Ward (singer/song writer and possibly the current heart of British Folk Music as she gets played on virtually every folk show I listen to regardless of the other tastes of the presenters!).

Luke Jackson (bright young purveyer of Fumes and Faith).

Merry Hell (8 piece folk-rocking explosion of melody and joy).

Ninebarrow (award-winning, Dorsetshire folk duo).

Patsy Matheson (singer/songwriter, spent time Waking The Witch, now The Domino Girl).

Peter Knight (singer/fiddle player, Gigspanner, Feast of Fiddles, Steeleye and holder of the world record for continuously playing the violin whilst travelling up and down the lift in the Empire State Building).

Phil ‘Swill’ Odgers (30 Year veteran of punk-folk luminaries, The Men They Couldn’t Hang).

Ray Cooper (singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, ex-Oysterband and now a pearl in his own right).

Richard Ryall (singer/songwriter, member of the band Litmuss and he comes from a land Down Under).

Robb Johnson (Irregular singer/songwriter and social conscience).

Said The Maiden (3 rising doyennes with harmonies the envy of angels).

Sally Barker (folk singer and by popular acclaim, the true winner of The Voice).

Sian James (Singer, writer, harpist, composer, conductor and actress from Wales, a big Armistice pals ‘Creoso’ to her).

In addition, there is also The Pals Chorus, made up of friends and members of several folk clubs who will be recorded together to help swell the voices and to represent the fact that this is a true community project.

Ashley Hutchings folk rock masterpiece available again

By Gloucester Docks I Sat Down and WeptAshley Hutchings’ concept album ‘By Gloucester Docks I Sat Down and Wept’ has been remastered and will be re-released on 11 November 2013. Widely considered to be Ashley’s best ever work it was originally recorded in 1987 but the original release was limited and the album was then unavailable for many years.

The album tells a very personal love story that unusually is not told from a ‘looking back’ perspective. The songs, the poems and stories were all written as the story itself was happening.  Only later did Hutchings realise that all those fragments  could come together to tell the story from start to finish. In creating the finished album Hutchings has drawn on all aspects of the arts from rock and traditional music, through poetry, history, storytelling and cinema. The result is an unfolding drama one might watch on television or at the cinema. But the images conjured by the words and music  become a personal screenplay.

“Heroic writing from Ashley Hutchings. This is an album that should be on every shelf” Chris While

By using this mix of spoken word, songs and tunes Hutchings powerfully captures and imparts the extent of all the different emotions experienced – joy, passion, wonder, confusion and sadness – the latter no more so than in two hauntingly eloquent songs. The first, ‘Brief Encounter’ which like the film of the same name, encapsulates the whole story, and ‘To Ireland I Made My Way’ both beautifully sung by Polly Bolton. As Chris While says: “the narrative reaches into the heart and gently tugs”

The poems have echoes of medieval and traditional love songs while the music on the album is a microcosm of every band that Hutchings has created. The folk rock of Fairport Convention, The Albion Band and Steeleye Span is immediately there on ‘Ring On Her Finger’ and throughout many of the later songs. The first song on the album has all the traditional flavours both in storyline and musicality and the dance tunes capture the spirit of  The Albion Country Band and Morris On. The impressive line-up of supporting artists includes many who were part of those bands – Phil Beer, Graeme Taylor, Dave Whetstone, and John Shepherd have all been Albion Band members. Steve Ashley was in the Albion Country Band and Dave Mattacks in Fairport Convention. Other guest artists -Christine Collister, Clive Gregson and Pete Zorn – have worked with Richard Thompson who along with Hutchings was a founder member of Fairport Convention.

This album is an important highlight in Hutchings’ career and a pinnacle in the volume of work that he has contributed to English music history. In Simon Nicol’s words “… not just heartfelt and personal, but beautiful, original, and fresh. 26 years on, I have still heard nothing remotely like it”

Album title:     By Gloucester Docks I Sat Down and Wept
Cat No:            TECD236
Bar Code:        5028479023622

Track titles:

1. Prologue – I Dreamed A Dream (Died For Love) 2.53
2. Ring On Her Finger 4.15
3. Dancing Under The Rose – Again 4.16
4. What! Must I Now Make An Enemy; Under The Rose 1.34
5. Keep You Warm 4.32
6. Ten Reasons Why They Should Be Together 0.42
7. At The Women’s Institute Dance; Flower Arranging 1.28
8. We Walked In God’s Country 2.11
9. A Letter; Small Town Romance 1.46
10. Don’t Look Back 2.32
11. In The Café 1.04
12. Brief Encounters 5.56
13. Westonbirt Sonnet; T Stands For Thomas 1.03
14. My Dearest To Ireland I Made My Way – Lies 3.33
15. My Dear Friend; Dives And Lazarus – The Blacksmith 2.43
16. I Don’t Go Dancing Any More 3.18
17. Love, Stuff And Nonsense 2.55
18. Epilogue – Died For Love 0.46, 1.23

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