EDGELARKS – Feather (Dragonfly Roots DRCD006)

FeatherThe fifth album by Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin, but Feather is only the second under their new name Edgelarks, this had the formidable task of following upon their eponymous ‘debut’. As you would expect, it does so effortlessly, expanding their musical palette as it goes and showcasing Martin’s ever maturing voice. The discovery of a single feather in the middle of a Dartmoor stone provided the impetus for the opening banjo-driven title track, the inability to identify its origin serving to underscore the notion that there remains mystery in the world and the album’s proclaimed mission to bring hope and positivity in dark times.

Ancient stones also lie behind ‘Where I Stand’, specifically the Roborough Down stone, one of the many Ogham stones which bear writing in the Irish runic alphabet, the lyrics reflecting the fact that this particular stone carries the inscription of two names, a father and his son who, as second generation no longer considered Irish as his native tongue. It’s not hard to see the wider resonance of embracing new cultures while honouring the old.

With Hannah on fiddle and Phillip augmenting guitar with stomp box, ‘Back From Hope’ is a breezy duet about a husband and wife who spent their Sundays walking the Peak District (Hope being a Derbyshire village), although the song has its origins in the true tragedy of John Axon, a Stockport railwayman killed while trying to stop a runaway freight train his story recounted in MacColl and Seeger’s Radio Ballads where his wife recalls their hikes.

Featuring dobro and banjo, ‘Wanting Nothing’ addresses a theme of contentment with just a home away from the bustle and a fire to warm, while National and tenor guitar lay down a slow-paced melody for ‘What We Save From The Tide’ where the beachcombing the flotsam and jetsam serves as a metaphor for the creative process.

The duo switch instruments with Phillip on banjo and Hannah on guitar for ‘Oyster’, another song of promise and hope that draws on nature (the poem referencing Emily Dickinson’s Hope Is The Thing With Feathers) in the idea of the mollusc spinning beauty out of pain., the six-minute track building to a frenetic mantra-like climax.

Fiddle shares space with stomp and shruti box for ‘Time Away’, a lazing, slowly loping celebration of the rejuvenating power of taking time off for a holiday, the pair delving into real life with ‘Growing’, dobro and banjo creating the dreamy atmosphere as, based on a true story from Sweden, the clearly metaphorical lyrics recount the loss and, sixteen years later, the recovery of a wedding ring, here wrapped around an unearthed carrot.

They head into the final stretch with the rhythmically itchy and melodically shape-shifting ‘Wander’, Henry’s buzzing beatbox harmonica putting in its only appearance alongside pizzicato five-string fiddle, shruti and stomp box for a song that (with a hint of Celtic folk to its swaying chorus) is essentially about migration and the definition of home as the place where you put down roots not where you come from.

The album’s sole traditional number comes with a six-minute rendition of Spencer The Rover, stripped back to the bare bones of harmonica, shruti drone and Martin’s exposed vocals, the final number being ‘The Longest Day’, plucked fiddle and National steel solo colouring a song of change and renewal inspired by the turning of the year, solstices, equinoxes and, the song building from calm to a swelling anthemic feel on Martin’s soaring fiddle, traditions like the May Day dancing the sun up on Dartmoor and a reminder that “the day is long and full of hope/And the circle turns forever”.

They describe their intention as to create an album of “bright songs for dark days”. Let it light up your life.

Mike Davies

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‘Feather’ – live:

Shrewsbury Folk Festival – tickets are now on sale

Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Kate Rusby

Tickets have gone on sale for the 2019 Shrewsbury Folk Festival as organisers have shared the first names to be added to the bill.

Weekend tickets to the four-day event, that will take place at the West Mid Showground from August 23 to 26, are expected to be in high demand. Last year the first tier of tickets were snapped up in less than 30 minutes and weekend tickets sold out a month before the August Bank Holiday event.

Two of the UK’s top solo stars Kate Rusby and Martyn Joseph will be topping the bill along with the legendary Oysterband and female supergroup Daphne’s Flight, who are returning after a triumphant performance in 2017. Scottish folk rockers Skerryvore have also been invited back after wowing crowds earlier this year.

Grace Petrie – photograph by David Wilson Clarke

Gary Stewart’s Graceland – a reworking of the Paul Simon classic – has also been signed up along with solo shows from Show of Hands frontman Steve Knightley, singer songwriter and activist Grace Petrie and appearances from The Phil Beer Band and Merry Hell.

Exclusive to the festival will be a special day of programming on its Pengwern stage by duo Chris While and Julie Matthews to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their musical partnership. The While and Matthews Takeover will see the pair curate performances on August 25th that will culminate in a big band show to close the night.

Granny’s Attic

Other acts will include Chris Elliott and Caitlin Jones, Edgelarks, Geoff Lakeman, Granny’s Attic, Mankala, Paul Downes, Rapsquillion, Reg Meuross, Track Dogs, the Urban Folk Quartet, and Winter Wilson. Festivalgoers will also be able to watch folk opera Here At The Fair by Mick Ryan.

Festival Director Sandra Surtees said many more artists are yet to be revealed.

“As ever the Shrewsbury line-up will feature some of the biggest names in folk, some popular performers that have been requested by our audience and a number of world and Americana acts.

“But the festival is about so much more than just the music – there’s so much to do during the weekend for all ages. The festival has its own magical atmosphere and we have many visitors who wouldn’t class themselves as ‘folkies’ but they just come to enjoy the relaxed and friendly atmosphere with friends and family and listen to great music.

“The festival continues to go from strength to strength with a devoted audience who return year after year, demonstrated by the fact that we regularly sell out in advance.”

The festival has four main music stages, a dance tent featuring ceilidhs, workshops and dance shows, children and youth festivals, workshops, crafts, food village, real ale, cocktail and gin bars and on-site camping and glamping.

There are also fringe events at local pubs with dance displays held in the town centre and a parade through the streets on the Saturday afternoon. Weekend and day tickets can be booked at  www.shrewsburyfolkfestival.co.uk/booktickets/.

EDGELARKS – Edgelarks (Dragonfly DRCD004)

EdgelarksHaving previously traded under their own names, Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin have decided to save space on the album sleeves (well, after this one anyway) by reinventing themselves as Edgelarks. Fans will be pleased to know, however, that, musically, the duo haven’t rung too many changes.

Featuring contributions from Lukas Drinkwater on bass, John Elliott on drums and keyboards and table player Niall Robinson, inspired by last year’s tour of Australia, the album deals with themes of margins and marginalisation, of boundaries, transition and hope, opening in ‘Landlocked’, a moody, banjo-pinioned song about Nancy Perriam, a woman from Exmouth, who, in the early part of the 19th century, went to sea and travelled the world with the navy.

The slouching rhythm of ‘No Victory’ introduces a new instrument to their musical repertoire with Martin playing a pedal powered shruti box while the track also features Henry’s beatbox harmonica technique. Indeed, the instrumentation throughout is as eclectic as it is extensive, featuring Dobro, fiddle, banjo, a variety of guitars and the return of the Chaturangui, an Indian classical slide guitar played by Henry. On ‘Undelivered’, a song inspired by the discovery of a trunkload of undelivered 17th century letters, specifically one from a woman to the father of her unborn child, he even plays his lap slide Weissenborn with a paintbrush to create a buzzing drone.

Of a more recent origin, three intersecting true stories make up the sparse, drone-backed ‘Caravans’, pivoting around the 2010 sub-prime mortgages crash documented in the film The Big Short and exploring themes of ensuing loss and lives lived outside the financial vortex where dreams can kill.

Elsewhere, the Celtic-tinged ‘Signposts’, the most traditional folk sounding number, and the minimalist and appropriately glacial arrangement of ‘Iceberg’ offer fairly straightforward metaphors about making connections and people having hidden depths, respectively.

A suitably discordant affair, ‘Yarl’s Wood’ strikes a political note, being titled after and written about the Bedfordshire immigrant removal centre and the allegations of the abusive treatment of the women detainees, the theme of refugees resurfacing on ‘Borders’, which, set to drone and clacking percussion, is based around the true story of Afghan refugees who, seeking to ensure her future, send their five-year-old daughter on a journey, on foot, with two cousins to northern Europe in search of asylum.

Thematically connected, the tabla-dappled ‘Song Of The Jay’, ostensibly about how the Californian Bush Jay apparently sings a special song for the ‘funerals’ of other birds, of different species, serves as a metaphor for universal kinship. The drone is also created from a sample of a Jay singing.

Although also going by the title ‘The Emigrants Song’, sung in Cornish by Martin, the rhythmically pulsing traditional ‘Estren’ takes a different tack in the tale of an American traveller in Cornwall, leaving it open to question whether he intends to be true to the woman he meets and declares he’ll take back home or that she’s the latest in the list of those to whom he’s pledged s his loves.

There’s another traditional number to be found with the mortality-themed ‘What’s The Life of Man?’ given a suitably simple and reflective tone before the instrumentation swells in the final stretch. As well as them both featuring the Chaturangui, it also serves to set the scene for the upbeat final track, the self-penned, acoustic accompanied ‘The Good Earth’ which treats on nature’s life cycle of death and renewal and, by extension, the connections we share with one another, both those around us and those who have gone before as she sings how “we grow on old wood, we are links in the chain.”

The couple say they chose their new name as it captures the concept of liminality or transition explored in their songs and the idea of their music being on the periphery. Given the quality here, that may be a status that will also prove to be in a state of transition.

Mike Davies

Phil Henry and Hannah Martin 24/9/17a

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‘Song Of The Jay’:

Edgelarks – Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin – New Album and Remaining Tour Dates

Edgelarks

We were recently treated to the hatching of Edgelarks (the new name for duo Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin) at the Southdowns Folk Festival in Bognor Regis last Sunday evening. The name change also spearheads the launch of the new album by the same name that is released 6.10.17.

The definition of Edgelark is “to sing about or from the margins”.

So its no surprise that the album focus on transitional spaces, minimal places, people, refugees and times. It looks at boundaries and thresholds; crossroads and borderlands.  There is a travelling theme that runs through the new album which spans stories of transition from old to new, all documented in song and wonderful music to a backdrop of shades of early morning light contrasted with the last ebb of light at the end of the day.

Darren Beech

Edgelarks describe this further as:

The idea that, despite often being places of marginalisation, these are also places of change – and therefore places of hope. That when social norms break down, when you are between two established worlds, there is a chance for new perspectives. That in the end, we have far more in common than things that divide us.

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Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD
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Artist Web links:

www.edgelarks.co.uk