VARIOUS ARTISTS – From Here – English Folk Field Recordings Volume 2 (From Here Records SITW011CD)

From Here Volume 2Curated by Ian Carter and Nicola Kearey of Stick In The Wheel, the second volume of From Here is every bit as intriguing and entertaining as its predecessor. Recorded wherever the artists were with just two microphones, these performances are sometimes raw and earthy and sometimes delicate and beautiful. Some of the artists are well known, others less so and same is true of the music.

There is a sort of chronology about the album. It begins with what Nancy Kerr calls a mediaeval song, ‘Gan Tae The Kye’, which she pairs with a popular north-eastern tune ‘Peacock Followed The Hen’. From the same geographical area comes ‘The Sandgate Dandling Song’ sung by Rachel Unthank and I must admit that I’ve never really listened to it properly. It’s a lullaby, yes, but with a very hard story wrapped up in it and Rachel’s matter-of-fact delivery emphasises the hardship. The first instrumental set is the delightful ‘Cottenham Medley’ by C Joynes, about whom I know almost nothing.other than the fact that he lives in Cambridgeshire. The other two sets are from the north-east: Kathryn Tickell’s dazzling ‘Bonnie Pit Laddie/ Lads Of Alnwick’ and ‘Nancy Clough’ by Sandra and Nancy Kerr, who thus gets to open and close the set.

The chronology begins to break down now. Richard Dawson’s ‘The Almsgiver’ sounds old but which Richard wrote recently and is perfectly in keeping with the feeling of the project. You may think you know ‘Barbera Allen’ but this version by Mary Hymphreys & Anahata will be new to most listeners. Coincidentally (or not) it also comes from Cottingham. June Tabor revisits ‘The Kng Of Rome’ and rising star Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne tackles ‘Two Lovely Black Eyes’. There are two distinct versions of this song, both by Charles Coborn, and Cohen goes for the political one. Both this and ‘The King Of Rome’ are set around the turn of the 20th century even though the latter was written much more recently. Appropriately, they are followed by Grace Petrie’s ‘A Young Woman’s Tale’, her updating of a song that began with the words “At the turning of the century…”, a clever juxtapositioning. Politics – although with a small “p” – return with Chris Wood’s ‘So Much To Defend’ which would appear to be made up of true stories.

Other, but not lesser, artists are Cath & Phil Tyler, Laura Smyth & Ted Kemp and Belinda Kempster, who is the mother of SITW’s Fran Foote and a very fine singer, now working as a duo with her daughter. That sort of emphasises the idea that we’re listening to a continuing tradition that has been caught in a moment of time.

Dai Jeffries

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Label website: https://www.fromhererecords.com/

Nancy Kerr – ‘Gan Tae The Kye/Peacock Followed The Hen’ – the video of the recording:

Stick In The Wheel announce the second volume of From Here

From Here Volume 2

Once again, Ian Carter and Nicola Kearey of Stick In The Wheel took up their recording equipment and ventured to new places within England, both physically and metaphorically. Asking folk and traditional musicians what ‘From Here’ meant to them: this impulse to make music – From Here – where does it come from? What does it mean to be making this music in 2019, using the framework of English traditional music and culture? England is divided, and we may well look to the past to make sense of the future – in such times of chaos and political uncertainty, these are timely questions.

Asking folk and traditional musicians what ‘From Here’ meant to them: this impulse to make music – From Here – where does it come from? Throughout the journey, trying to figure out who we are, as a nation. What does it mean to be making this music in 2019, using the framework of English traditional music and culture?

“The more we travelled the less we found we knew. At every turn, surprising, frustrating. And identity to grasp, or to push away. To try and understand who we are, where we are going, where we came from. Now more than ever, our identity is important, this culture and canon of music is a living, breathing thing, to be respected and taken seriously.” Nicola Kearey

A snapshot of the English folk scene right now – from seasoned professionals to folk club singers, everyone is equal and valid. Recorded on location, in front rooms and kitchens with two pairs of microphones, capturing immediate, intimate, yet powerful and evocative performances. This is not the collecting of songs to fit a pre-determined view of what folk music “should” be – rather, an attempt at documenting of what it is – a continuum that thrives, flourishes and persists in this country.

From old Northumbrian kingdoms, through the Midlands, way over to the Welsh border, with an expanding set of experimental and traditional musicians interpreting the music that roots them, in their own unique ways. Songs and tunes reflecting everyday life in England: from racing pigeons to lost children, domestic violence to fighting in the street about politics. This is each artist’s response to what From Here means to them, by way of identity or place, feeling or memory: “this is who I am, this is where I’m from”.

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TRACK LISTING

1/ Gan Tae The Kye/Peacock Followed The Hen NANCY KERR
2/ The Sandgate Dandling Song RACHEL UNTHANK
3/ Cottenham Medley C JOYNES
4/ The Almsgiver RICHARD DAWSON
5/ Ladle/Richmond CATH & PHIL TYLER
6/ Barbera Allen MARY HUMPHREYS & ANAHATA
7/ The King Of Rome JUNE TABOR
8/ Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy LAURA SMYTH & TED KEMP
9/ Two Lovely Black Eyes COHEN BRAITHWAITE-KILCOYNE
10/ A Young Woman’s Tale GRACE PETRIE
11/ Nightingales BELINDA KEMPSTER
12/ Bonnie Pit Laddie/Lads Of Alnwick KATHRYN TICKELL
13/ So Much To Defend CHRIS WOOD
14/ Nancy Clough SANDRA & NANCY KERR

Artists’ website: https://www.stickinthewheel.com/

 

VARIOUS – From Here: English Folk Field Recordings (From Here Sitw005)

From HereThey may be newcomers to the scene, but Stick In The Wheel are certainly making their mark, not just with their own recordings and associated artifacts, but in their involvement with the folk world in general, and the traditional in particular.

Band members Ian Carter and Nicola Kearey serve as curators, collaborators and producers for this collection of new live recordings by both the great and good and some of the lesser known luminaries in the genre. The remit for those involved was to record songs that explored either place or their musical identity, culminating in a gathering of field recordings captured in locations as diverse as a stone cottage in Edale, a bank vault and a garden at Robin Hood’s Bay using just two stereo microphones and with no subsequent overdubs.

As you would imagine, the tracks are stark and raw, first up being ‘Bedfordshire May Carol’, chosen by performer Jack Sharp, leader of psych-folk outfit Wolf People, as it supposedly originated just a few miles from where he grew up. Next up, Eliza Carthy leads a flurry of more familiar names with a self-penned number, ‘The Sea’, a new setting of the broadside ballad found in Manchester’s Chetham Library and featuring on her current album, the initial pizzicato fiddle giving way to more robust playing. She’s followed by one of the veterans of English folk, John Kirkpatrick, applying his accordion to a song from his lengthy repertoire and a folk club staple ‘Here’s Adieu To Old England’, while his sometimes musical partner, Martin Carthy, also chose a number he’s recently reintroduced back into his sets, ‘The Bedmaking’, a familiar tale of the abused and cast aside servant girl. fingerpicked here to a halting rhythm.

Sandwiched in-between is one of the rising stars of the few folk firmament, the Peak District’s Bella Hardy, who went to 19th century collection The Ballads and Songs of Derbyshire for ‘The Ballad of Hugh Stenson’, setting it to a more upbeat tune than the hymnal adapted by Jon Tams, while, another member of folk royalty, Jon Boden puts his squeezebox to work on a contemplative take on 19th century drinking song ‘Fathom The Bowl’.

There’s a couple of spokes from the Wheel, both unaccompanied, Kearey delivering glottal version of the much covered ‘Georgie’ and Fran Foote ‘The Irish Girl’. They’re not the only numbers to be sung naked as it were. BritFolk alumnus Lisa Knapp has a lovely treatment of the tumblingly melodious ‘Lavender Song’, while, also from the female side, Fay Hield tips the hat to Annie Briggs with her choice of ‘Bonny Boy’.

On the other side of a capella gender fence, Geordie folkie Stew Simpson mines his Newcastle roots for ‘Eh Aww Ah Cud Hew’ (which the accompanying booklet helpfully translates as “Oh Yes, I Could Pick At The Coals”), Sam Lee turns the evergreen ‘Wild Rover’ on its head to transform it into a slow, sad lament rather than more familiar rollicking rouser of Dubliners and Pogues note, and, from Wales, a deep-voiced Men Diamler closes the album with ‘1848 (Sunset Beauregard)’, a self-penned political protest ballad about Tory policies. The remaining unaccompanied track is actually a duet, Peta Webb and Ken Hall joining voices for an Irish in London in the 50s marriage of Ewan MacColl’s ‘Just A Note’, about the building of the M1, and Bob Davenport’s account of the dangers of ‘Wild Wild Whiskey’.

The three remaining tracks are all instrumentals. Bristol’s acoustic instrumental quartet Spiro are the only band on the collection and provide their self-penned ‘Lost In Fishponds’, apparently about getting lost en route to a gig, joined here by North Wales violinist Madame Česki, while Sam Sweeney brings his fiddle to bear on two tunes. ‘Bagpipers’, one of the first things he played with his band Leveret, and ‘Mount Hills’, an English dance tune from the 17th century. Which leaves Cumbrian concertina maestro Rob Harbron to provide the third with a pairing of ‘Young Collins’, a Costwolds’ tune learned from Alistair Anderson, and, another from the Morris tradition, ‘Getting Up The Stairs’, which, by way of a pleasing synchronicity, he actually learned by way of John Kirkpatrick on the influential Morris On album.

It more than does the job it set out to achieve, and, likely to loom large in end of year awards, fully warrants a place in any traditional folk fan’s collection.

Mike Davies

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Stew Simpson – ‘Eh Aww Ah Cud Hew’:

Stick In The Wheel – debut album

Stick In The Wheel - debut album

Stick In The Wheel’s debut album From Here is a raw, fresh take on English Folk music. Their now-trademark abrasive delivery of both original and traditional tracks, is not bland retroism, or empty nostalgia, but a voice linking now to then. Addressing issues that still have relevance today, re-visiting traditions long-lost, as well as those disappearing right before us, in a way that has more in common with Sleaford Mods than with Bellowhead. A thousand miles away from waistcoats and wistful ladies, the songs are roughed up down dark alleys with lyrics that are direct, honest, and caustic, but also eloquently poetic. The band is spearheaded by Nicola Kearey’s fierce uncompromising vocal delivery, accompanied by Fran Foote’s harmony vocal and underpinned by sparse taut arrangements. From Here follows a handful of acclaimed EPs and a recent 7” released through Static Caravan this spring.

Brought up in the thriving culture of working class London and cutting their teeth in its diverse musical landscape (Dobro player Ian also producing music for GhostPoet, Context and for labels such as XL, Brownswood and Cosmic Bridge), they now bring those influences and attitudes to their traditional music. Stripped back to their bare components, the songs speak for themselves without ornament. With plaudits pouring in for their early releases from Tom Robinson, John Kennedy, Mark Radcliffe, Gideon Coe, Joe Boyd, Jack Sharp (Wolf People) and Om Unit, these are aggressive and intentionally raw recordings, cobbled together in warehouses, kitchens, and wherever they can, telling tales of everyday life: carboot-swindlers, lorry drivers and London rioters, sitting seamlessly against traditional songs of prisons, hammer-wielding blacksmiths and 18th century madhouses. Lead singer Nicola Kearey comments:

“We see this music as part of our culture, we’re not pretending to be chimney sweeps or 17th century dandies. A lot of people are really disconnected from their past, and this is part of what we’re addressing – getting people to reconnect with it, and realise there are parallels to be drawn from life 100 or 200 years ago. We make this music because we have to.”

Whether these be tracks like the hard and rhythmical ‘Common Ground’, which addresses the continual erosion of people’s rights (recorded in a warehouse amongst pallets and boxes on a cold October night) or starkly beautiful ‘Hasp’ and its use of a tethered horse as a metaphor for societal shackles and loss of liberty, an acerbic bite threads everything together. The album finishes with three ghostly, atmospheric tracks. ‘By Of River is based on a chance meeting with Alan Moore and his book Voice of the Fire. It starts a trio of songs about a procession of lost people, mysterious rituals, and the remains of a past culture, with ‘Who Knows’ and a soundscape reprise closing the album.

Stick In The Wheel are the most relevant and vital band in the UK right now. It’s not about genres or labels any more, it’s about standing up and being counted. From Here is an important cornerstone in England’s musical lineage, with a proud rallying cry that’s impossible to ignore.

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Artists’ website: http://www.stickinthewheel.com