Most of our readership will recognise the view that illustrates Northern Shores & Stories; indeed many will have climbed those steps. The first sound we hear is that very sea and it recurs along with other field recordings throughout the album. Hannah Elizabeth and Griff Jameson are two of the rising stars of the British folk scene and are already creating a buzz. Their debut album will certainly enhance their reputation.
Northern Shores & Stories has been described as a concept album but it really isn’t. There isn’t a narrative except that all the songs are inspired by Whitby and its people past and present. The first thing that struck me is the dynamic, the light and shade between Hannah and Griff as their music ebbs and flows like the sea itself. Hannah plays violin and piano accordion with Griff on guitar and some percussion. Producer Stephen MacLachlan adds keyboards, percussion and other sounds with Claire Bostock on cello and Dave Sutherland on double bass. They can move easily from the most delicate of sounds to an almost orchestral power within a single song.
The opening track is ‘Endeavour’ which is sort of about the ship and her captain but can be also read as a metaphor. The album is full of such references. One song is decorated in the booklet by a quote from Frank Meadow Sutcliffe, another by a line from Bram Stoker. ‘Picture’ is certainly about photography but I don’t really think ‘I Will Wait’ is about vampirism. Closing what would be the first side is a spoken word/instrumental, ‘Bet & Terry’, telling, in Bet’s own words, the story of their courtship which began when they were children and lasted until Terry’s death.
‘How Long Has It Been?’ and ‘Someone’s Missing Someone’ came from chance observations – the sort of observations that only a real songwriter will pick up and run with – and ‘Bottomless Beer’ is a jokey song inspired by a misunderstanding in a pub. Finally, we have the long, mystical ‘Black Amber’ about Whitby jet, a song that closes with the sound of the ocean and brings the record full circle.
Northern Shores & Stories is one of those albums that you can sail away on – a delight from start to finish.
Artists’ website: https://www.elizabethandjameson.co.uk/
‘Someone’s Missing Someone’ – live studio session: