Meg Hutchinson Moves Listeners with ‘Beyond That’

MH_BeyondThat_Booklet_FIN_NOPRINT

One needn’t know Meg Hutchinson’s background to realize she was a creative writer well before she turned her artistic talents to folk music.

One listen to Beyond That, the latest release by the Boston-based Hutchinson, and its clear that this is a woman who knows how to spin a mysteriously compelling tale made even richer with starkly elegant arrangements. Although it’s been three years since Hutchinson’s last release, The Living Side, the artist clearly invested plenty of time and thought in crafting her most recent effort.

The singer-songwriter, who is a staple of the Boston music scene but not widely known beyond that area, recently published her first book of poetry. The sparse word play that leads readers to deep meanings in that genre of writing is apparent in both the lyrics and music on the songs of Beyond That.

Consider the title track of the album, something akin to a mix of the strong storytelling of Sarah McLachlan and some of the lush, experimental sounds of Andreas Vollenweider. There she weaves a musical soundscape around the one woman’s journey from darkness into light and her continual struggle against returning. Adding to the strength of Hutchinson’s masterful story telling and vocals are carefully woven mixtures of string and light percussion.

Perhaps one of the more striking aspects of this music is how Hutchinson toggles between the full majesty and simple starkness of the piano to underscore her reflections on songs including “Only Just Begun,” and “Making You a Place.”

Like Vollenweider, Hutchinson has created an album that stays on something of a single musical track that leads to the simple beauty of life captured in moments of time.  By staying on this course, Hutchinson allows listeners a rare glimpse into a the unvarnished artistic soul, which few artists are brave enough to present.

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SKILDA – Skyewalker (Celluloid 006628)

Now Luke here (sorry about that…couldn’t resist it), with the title Skyewalker used for their latest CD release you’d expect something a bit new-age-ish from the band Skilda and indeed, in some respects they are. But the cross-fertilisation of electronica and folk music is a thing of beauty in the band’s ever creative hands and now, three albums in they really have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with. For those who have an aversion (as they see it) to tampering with ‘folk music’ they should seriously take another look and re-evaluate how modern ‘pop’ music can be influenced and yet not overshadow the (in this case) Breton and Scottish Celtic roots. Much like Vaughan Williams and Cecil Sharpe collecting source material band leader Kenny Brendan does a similar job but with aural sounds, not songs. These are th en utilised in the recording process and overdubbed with the ethereal vocals of Kohann and the full-on instrumental sounds of the band with special guest John A Helliwell (Supertramp) on saxophone and guitarist Gaetan Grandjean on the track “Willow’s Song”. Talking of “Willow’s Song”, this is an imaginative re-working of “The Wickerman” movie scene where Edward Woodward has a fitful night dreaming of Britt Ekland banging on the adjacent bedroom wall…I’ll leave the rest to you. This really is an album that you need to put aside any prejudices and allow yourself to be carried on a wave of euphoric sound-scapes and I can’t help but recommend it highly enough.

PETE FYFE

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Fay Hield and The Hurricane Party – Orfeo

Fay Hield is a singer who seems to have been born knowing how to carry a tune but with the rarer gift of knowing how to go straight to the heart of a song. Her debut solo album Looking Glass‘, was released in September 2010 by prestigious folk label, Topic Records and quickly earned Fay many accolades as well as a nomination for the Horizon Award at the 2010 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Fay’s second album, Orfeo, was released in May 2012, again on Topic Records and has gained rave reviews in the press and plenty of airplay across the UK and beyond.

Orfeo features 11 superbly arranged traditional songs, including lead track, ‘Sir Orfeo’, based on a 13th Century retelling of the epic supernatural Greek fable, Orpheus and Eurydice. Fay’s gift for unearthing rare and interesting material is well represented throughout, including the obscure but beguiling nursery rhyme

Naughty Baby’ and the feisty Lancashire mill-girl tour-de-force ‘The Old ‘Arris Mill’.  An Anne Briggs inspired version of ‘The Cuckoo’ is included. In folklore, the bird’s call is often used as a signal heralding spring and the number of times it is heard during the season is said to translate into the number of years until a death or a marriage. The delightfully named ‘Tarry Trousers’, is a song Fay discovered through singer, Frankie Armstrong, but which was also well known by Dickens (and quoted in his novel, Dombey and Son). ‘Wicked Serpent’ meanwhile, originates from the US and is based on an incident relating to the unfortunate Timothy Myrick of Springfield Mountain when he died after having been bitten by a rattlesnake one August.

The focus of the first album was Fay’s rich and unadorned voice. While Orfeo finds her once again exploring lesser known traditional songs, this time, the new recordings also see Fay confidently fronting a stellar supporting cast; The Hurricane Party. Consisting of some of the finest folk musicians working today The Hurricane Party features ; Andy Cutting (button accordions, melodeon), Rob Harbron (English Concertina, fiddle, vocals), Sam Sweeney (fiddle, viola, cello, nyckelharpa, vocals) and Jon Boden (fiddle, guitar, percussion, double bass, mandolin, additional banjo and vocals) plus special guest Martin Simpson (banjo, guitar).

Alongside her burgeoning performing career, Fay is also an academic, lecturing in Ethnomusicology at the University of Sheffield. Her PhD thesis ‘English Folk Singing and the Construction of Community’ was completed in 2010 and she is currently consultant for the ‘Music Communities’ research project at the University of Manchester. Fay also guest lectures at other educational establishments, including the Leeds College of Music. Fay and her partner, Bellowhead front man Jon Boden, also find time to run two folk clubs – Royal Traditions (in their local village of Dungworth) and Bright Phoebus (Sheffield).

Orfeo is an album of songs to which Fay feels an especially strong connection. Her choice of material and the delivery of it, reflect a rare sensitivity and appreciation of the tradition whilst remaining naturalistic and highly distinctive. Fay Hield & The Hurricane Party will appear at a range of key festivals throughout the summer before undertaking a major UK tour in the autumn performing at venues such as Cecil Sharp House in London, The Sage Gateshead, The Junction in Cambridge and St David’s Hall in Cardiff.

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Artist’s website: www.fayhield.com

Sam Lee – Ground Of Its Own

Ground of Its Own is the striking debut release by Sam Lee, a young folk musician who is busy forging a unique path, not just in his own artistic development but also by supporting and having influence on a whole new generation of musicians.

Born and bred in North London, Sam Lee has a glorious baritone voice and seemingly boundless imagination and enthusiasm. A graduate of the Chelsea College of Art, Sam decided to abandon work as a visual artist, teacher of wilderness survival skills (he was trained by Ray Mears) and a part-time Burlesque dancer. Instead, he embarked on a journey of discovery into the songs of the British Isles. His main musical training developed from a unique four-year apprenticeship under the legendary, late Scottish Traveller, the balladeer, Stanley Robertson, to whom Ground of Its Own is dedicated. Whilst still in his mid 20s, Sam regularly visited Stanley in the North of Scotland where he inherited a vast repertoire of songs as well as an ancient, idiosyncratic singing craft. Sam became inspired to research and document traditional music, a craft which has since led him to become a regular visiting lecturer to Goldsmith’s College and Newcastle University. Sam is also the first folk singer to teach at the Royal College of Music.

 

Ground of Its Own is an 8-track release (produced by Gerry Diver and with mixes by John Wood, of Nick Drake fame) comprising traditional material, largely discovered through Sam’s years of dogged research and exploration of often long forgotten songs. Not content to learn only from books or records, Sam has sourced most of his material direct from English Gypsy and Irish and Scottish traveller communities. For example, Northlands is a mighty ballad of betrayal and survival learnt direct from the Cassidy family of Irish Travellers. Meanwhile, On Yonders Hill explores the ever popular theme of the invincibility of the hare in folklore and The Ballad of George Collins, originally collected by Bob Copper from a Sussex Shepherd, Enos White, is given new life with Sam Lee’s highly distinctive delivery.

Live or on record, Sam Lee and his band (Francesca Ter-Berg : Cello, Jonah Brody : Japanese Koto (Harp) Jews Harp & Ukelele, Steve Chadwick : Trumpet & Cornet, Camilo Tirado : Tabla, Percussion & Cantele, Flora Curzon : Violin ; there is even the odd gas cylinder in there too…) present rich tapestries of ancient songs in an innovative and dynamic fashion.

In between times, Sam has became the promoter, live events producer and driving force behind the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winning Magpie’s Nest (now The Nest Collective) organisation which has played a key role in helping to regenerate interest in the live folk music scene, especially amongst younger musicians and audiences, and is the group behind many innovative concerts and festival stages.

In 2011, Sam was presented with the prestigious Arts Foundation Award (by Grayson Perry). That year, he also featured in Vogue Magazine, was a contributor to an 8 part series called ‘Traveller’s Got Talent’ (Sky TV) and was a musical director of a Radio 4 series on the history of the postal service. More recently, Sam has started presenting an eclectic weekly show on Resonance FM Radio.

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DAVE SWARBRICK – Swarbrick/Swarbrick 2/Smiddyburn is reviewed by Pete Fyfe…

This tremendous 2-disk, 3-album set by that quintessential fiddler Dave Swarbrick should be required listening and possibly one of the best boxed sets to grace any ‘folk music’ CD collection. Containing as it does his two ‘solo’ albums from the late 70’s and the excellent “Smiddyburn” (1981) the record company Beat Goes On [BGO] deserve a round of applause for releasing yet another ‘must have’ anthology. If you haven’t already got them (and why not?) the first two albums feature predominantly ‘acoustic’ sets whilst the third utilises the services of his band mates from Fairport Convention to buoy what to me is probably one of the best ‘instrumental’ albums in the ‘folk-rock’ genre. From a preference point of view and, although having made his mark for his flashy flourishes of Celtic brilliance it is the English personified Playford tunes “The Hole In The Wall” and “Once I Loved A Maiden Fair” that stand out from the crowd. Mind you, if it is the dazzling display of showmanship that you’re looking for I’d suggest you check out the sparkling three-handed mandolin arrangements jointly performed by Richard Thompson, Dave Pegg and Swarb on “Sir Charles Coote/Smiths” and “When The Battle Is Over” or the Japanese sounding “Ribbons Of The Redheaded Girl”. By the way if you’re wondering where Dave got some of his inspiration from check out the sadly now departed Beryl Marriott’s solo on “Lady Mary Hay’s Scotch Measure”…simply brilliant!

PETE FYFE

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The Roughneck Riot to release This Is Our Day

On July 16 2012 The Roughneck Riot will unleash their new album “This Is Our Day” through Bomber Music. The single “Ignorance Is Easy” was releaed on June 18th.

As folk music mutates in all directions and is being cannibalised and re-invigorated within many other genres, The Roughneck Riot stake their claim to the UK Folk Punk crown.

This is no crude clichéd  “Oirish” fake ceilidh band. This is no lame “Pirate” music album.

Tearing influences from the likes of Social Distortion and The Clash and injecting a definite Englishness into the music, the passion of vocalist Matty Humphries ignites this band. The accordion, mandolin and banjo are played low slung and rock’n’roll, cutting through the punk guitar and bringing a manic swirling folk element to add to the steamroller of excitement that is The Roughneck Riot.

“We are reinventing and rewriting Folk music to make sense to our lives today. We write music for people, regardless of race, nationality, age, gender or sexuality. We are a voice amongst many in the scene ready to be heard. We are here to play Folk Punk music. From nowhere & everywhere. This is our Day.”

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