THE ASKEW SISTERS – Enclosure (Oakmere Music OMCD001)

EnclosureEnclosure is the fourth album from The Askew Sisters, five years since the release of the award winning In the Air Or The Earth.

Both sisters have been busy with other projects in between albums, with Hazel working with Lady Maisery and The Coven. Emily through her solo album Alchemy has been working with early music with the likes of Jamie Roberts, Simon Whittaker and also John Dipper, who recorded and co-produced Enclosure with Emily and Hazel.

The album has a very traditional feel, but somehow feels modern as well. I must confess to being more on the contemporary side of folk, but I really enjoyed the arrangements whether it be fiddle and melodeon with Hazel’s haunting voice on ‘The Wounded Hussar’ or the singing of Hazel with the cello and harmonium on ‘My Father Built Me a Pretty Tower’.

There is a wonderful medley combining waltzes, county dance and a minuet in ‘Zodiac/Joy After Sorrow/Minoway’. ‘London’s Loyalty /Heady Days’ is a second one which came from a 1651 hornpipe and the excitement of creating new music.

I especially enjoyed their take on the tale of Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight with “Castle By The Sea”, having originally heard the story on Kadia’s Outlandish Collection EP.

This album certainly grew on me the more I listened to it and I’m very tempted to make room in the diary to go to the album launch at Cecil Sharp House on 24th April. If I don’t make it I’ll just have to content myself with seeing Hazel with Lady Maisery in Harwell on 10th May.

Duncan Chappell

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‘Goose & Common’ – official video:

THE ELIZABETHAN SESSION out now

LizSessionFeaturing Martin Simpson, Nancy Kerr, Bella Hardy, Jim Moray, John Smith, Hannah James, Rachel Newton & Emily Askew

This 14 track CD showcases the multi-artist commission from Folk by the Oak and the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) inspired by the music, the people, the myths and the stories of the Elizabethan age.

From John Smith’s darkly brooding track ‘London’ reflecting on life as a peasant in Elizabethan England to Nancy Kerr’s deeply moving ‘Shores of Hispaniola’ examining the era’s slave trade; The Elizabethan Session is a ground breaking album of exceptional new music that beautifully conjures up the spirit of the age. It reflects the collective talent of some of the cream of the contemporary folk world, who lived and worked together for five days in March 2014, absorbing the spirit of the era and translating it into outstanding new music.

The work was premiered at Hatfield Old Palace where Elizabeth I held her first Council of State, and Cecil Sharp House, home of EFDSS and the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. It was also performed at the festival Folk by the Oak, held in the field with the oak tree where legend claims the young Princess Elizabeth learnt of her ascent to the throne.

Produced by Andy Bell (The Full English) and recorded at Hatfield’s Old Palace and Cecil Sharp House, The Elizabethan Session is set to create its own place in musical history when it is released on September 8.

Featured on BBC Radio 3 In Tune and the BBC Radio 2 Folk Show, and reviewed in The Guardian, Times, R2, fRoots, Living Tradition and Songlines, The Elizabethan Session was supported with funding from Arts Council England and the PRS Music Foundation.

Sunday Times essential new release 

‘A fine artefact of an inspired project’ – Fatea

Named as one of the best folk albums of 2014 by the Daily Telegraph – ‘A bold triumph of imagination and musicianship from eight of the UK’s top folk musicians’

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THE ELIZABETHAN SESSION – The Elizabethan Session (Quercus Records QUERCUS001)

LizSessionThere is an assumption common in some quarters that history is all about the past”, says Dr Ian Mortimer in his sleeve note. “In reality, history is about you and me.” That view was certainly taken on board by the “folk supergroup” (Dr Mortimer again) who were locked up at Monnington House until they had written an album. In this case the gaolers were The English Folk Dance And Song Society and Folk By The Oak.

This is a sometimes revisionist view of the first Elizabethan era sometimes applying 21st century values to 16th century events. I’m no historian and cannot comment on the accuracy of the songs in The Elizabethan Session but I can’t help feeling that few songwriters would have penned ‘The Oak Casts His Shadow’ or felt the need to. That it was Nancy Kerr who did so shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise and she almost immediately has a sly dig at Richard III – or at least the Tudor propaganda version – in ‘Suspicious Mind’ written with John Smith. Nancy also opens the proceedings with ‘The Shores Of Hispaniola’, a brilliant song which considers the slave trade from the point of view of a woman left behind, presumably in West Africa. You might get the impression that Gloriana doesn’t figure as a feminist role model for her.

The Elizabethan Session @ Folk By the Oak in 2014
The Elizabethan Session @ Folk By the Oak in 2014

The song that perhaps best encapsulates Mortimer’s dictum is ‘Hatfield’. Bella Hardy begins from a childhood memory of her sister playing Elizabeth at the house to consider the queen’s troubled childhood. For the most part, however, the view is that of the underdog. Martin Simpson contributes a short, bitter song on the death of Kit Marlowe – Shakespeare doesn’t get look-in – and the countryman in John Smith’s ‘London’ dreams of the great city and wishes for a better life.

Instrumentally we also have Rachel Newton, Hannah James and Emily Askew who add an almost orchestral feel to some tracks, aided by two fiddles and Jim Moray’s keyboards, of course. The song they wrote together, ‘Eve’s Apology In Defence Of Women’, takes words by the Elizabeth poet, Amelia Lanyer, and adds decoration from Martin Simpson’s banjo. That’s not quite as anachronistic as it sounds: banjos were known in the Caribbean in the early 17th century. Later Rachel appropriates words by Marlowe and Walter Raleigh for ‘Come Live With Me’ with an accompaniment of her harp with bells and frame drum by Emily.

The Elizabethan Session is a complex album. At first I was irritated by the modern slant on the history of the period, something that always puts me off, but soon I was seduced by the music.

Dai Jeffries

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The Elizabethan Session

Liz-session-cd-banner_cropBannerImage

“I hear tell of London, Buildings seven houses high, The perfume of the ladies, All the ways a man can die. And the Woman King, she’s ten feet tall, She dresses all in white, They say she shines all over England, Though I’ve never seen the light” (London by John Smith)

This 14 track CD showcases the multi artist commission from Folk by the Oak and the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) inspired by the music, the people, the myths and the stories of the Elizabethan age.

From John Smith’s darkly brooding track ‘London’ reflecting on life as a peasant in Elizabethan England to Nancy Kerr’s deeply moving ‘Shores of Hispaniola’ examining the era’s slave trade The Elizabethan Session is a ground breaking album of exceptional new music that beautifully conjures up the spirit of the age.

It reflects the collective talent of some of the cream of the contemporary folk world, who lived and worked together for five days in March 2014, absorbing the spirit of the era and translating it into outstanding new music.

Please support us and order via our UK or US Storefront 


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Physical link for the UK Store is: https://folking.com/folking-store/


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The work was premiered at Hatfield Old Palace where Elizabeth I held her first Council of State, and Cecil Sharp House, home of EFDSS and the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. It was also performed at the festival Folk by the Oak, held in the field with the oak tree where legend claims the young Princess Elizabeth learnt of her ascent to the throne.

Produced by Andy Bell (The Full English) and recorded at Hatfield’s Old Palace and Cecil Sharp House, The Elizabethan Session is set to create its own place in musical history when it is released on September 8.

Featured on BBC Radio 3 In Tune and the BBC Radio 2 Folk Show, and reviewed in The Guardian, Times, R2, fRoots, Living Tradition and Songlines, The Elizabethan Session was supported with funding from Arts Council England and the PRS Music Foundation.

“Alchemy yielded gold from the very beginning… a stunning and unforgettable evening” Clive Davis, The Times *****

“An evening of unexpected songs…I look forward to the album” Robin Denselow, The Guardian **** 

“An exciting project…It promises to be, to borrow another phrase from the Bard, a concord of sweet sounds” Martin Chilton, Daily Telegraph

Track Details

1. The Shores Of Hispaniola Kerr
A female perspective on the trade that saw Africans sold into slavery during the Elizabethan age, an established trade endorsed by the Queen

2. London Smith
A brooding take on the dangers and challenges of being a commoner in Elizabethan England

3. Christopher Marlowe Simpson
In memory of the poet and playwright, Christopher Marlowe who died when he stabbed in a pub in Deptford, aged 29, reflecting his past times of fighting and counterfeiting coins, his outspoken atheism & espousal of homosexuality.

4. Love-in-Idleness Hardy
A lament for Hermia, inspired by William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

5. Eve’s Apology in Defence of Women/Gather the Owls Newton
Aemilia Lanyer was the first woman to be deemed a professional poet and this song uses verses from her fairly radical poem for the time. The tune is named after the distinctive owl mugs used to drink copious volumes of tea during the residency.

6. Broadside Kerr/Smith/Simpson
A three-way composition reflecting the maritime trauma that was indicative of the generation

7. Elizabeth Spells Death Simpson
The troubled musings of a queen who must sign the death warrant of her own cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots

8. Come Live With Me Trad/Newton/Askew
Words from Christopher Marlowe’s poem The Passionate Shepherd to His Love and Walter Raleigh’s response The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd, set to the tune of The Woods So Wild, thought to be a favourite of Henry VIII.

9. The Straight Line And The Curve MorayJohn Dee, mathematician, astrologer and scientist to the court of Elizabeth, studied algebra and was responsible for huge increases in accuracy of navigation using the stars. This song looks at how he pushed the bounds of the sciences into occultism and magic

10. True Lover’s Knot Untied/The Great Hall Askew
The Great Hall tune is written in the style of a Galliard, a popular Elizabethan dance, and modified into a waltz. Affectionately named after the large sitting room where the artists gathered to share music during the residency.

11. The Monnington Pavane/Ortiz Ground Askew
The Monnington Pavane (named after the hamlet where the residency took place) is based on a popular dance tune of the era. It is followed by a ground bass from the time, layered with an improvisation and one written by the composer Diego Ortiz.

12. The Oak Casts His Shadow Kerr
Inspired by the conspiracy theory that Elizabeth I was in fact a man, this song examines the role of gender in people’s expectations of a public figure.

13. Hatfield Hardy
An examination of childhood and loss, sparked by the memory of an older sister’s childhood portrayal of the young Queen at a performance at Hatfield.

14. Suspicious Mind Smith/Kerr
Based on two of Elizabeth’s own poems – one, a condemnation of the suspicion and conniving ambition she was surrounded by, and the other written as she bade her last ‘official’ suitor, the Duke of Anjou, farewell.

The Askew Sisters: new album

AskewsSister duo Emily and Hazel Askew released their long awaited new album In The Air Or The Earth on 5th May. Fresh from their work with acts such as Lady Maisery, The Elizabethan Session and The Dufay Collective, the sisters have been focusing on working as a duo again and this will be their first release since the critically acclaimed Through Lonesome Woods in 2010.

In The Air Or The Earth is a dark album that explores themes of boundary crossing. It features striking renditions of some of the most challenging ballads, such as ‘The Wife of Usher’s Well’ and ‘The Unquiet Grave’, alongside sweeping dance tunes and ancient hornpipes. Throughout the album, the sisters use fiddle, melodeon and concertina to create cinematic arrangements that expose their skill for interpreting and reworking traditional material, taking you to the very heart of each song. Woven throughout are the influences of Emily’s work on the early music scene alongside Hazel’s captivating voice, which won her Best Female Singer in the 2011 Spiral Earth Awards.

In The Air Or The Earth has been expertly produced by Andy Bell (producer of BBC Folk Award Best Album 2014 The Full English) and was released on RootBeat Records, the home to acts such as Hannah James and Sam Sweeney, and Lady Maisery.

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Buying through Amazon helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

For further information see: www.askewsisters.co.uk