Hannah James announces her new album and tour dates

Hannah James

Described as ‘a true original’ by the Guardian, spellbindingly innovative musician and dancer Hannah James and her most recent project The JigDoll Ensemble, announce the release of their impressive new album The Woman And Her Words on October 4th.

Recorded in Hungary, at the prestigious music venue/studio Budapest Music Centre, the album hosts an international line-up of musicians – András Dés (Hungary – Percussion); Marti Tärn (Estonia – Bass Guitar); Kate Young (Scotland – Fiddle / Vocals) and Toby Kuhn (France – Cello).

“I deliberately put together this band of extraordinary musicians because, at this time, I feel it’s so important to keep international friendships strong. I have always felt European, not English, and this band is a celebration of that and an example of the great things that can emerge when people from different countries and backgrounds have the freedom to meet and work together”. Hannah James.

One of the key figures in the revival of English percussive dance, Hannah is renowned as one of the best accordionists of the British Folk scene, her musicianship extends far beyond the tradition and flawlessly incorporates beautiful vocal-stylings with both classic and contemporary applications of English clog dance.

The new release is a celebration of ageing, gaining wisdom, and of the many women who have delivered essential truths along the way. Artist and puppeteer Katarina Cakova, based on Hannah’s stories, created the physical form of ‘the woman’, which appears on the album cover.

The Woman And Her Words tackles important issues and subjects in our current climate, with a strong theme of community evident throughout the album. The title track addresses gender roles and the consequences of toxic masculinity, whilst ‘Canal Song’ focuses on the necessity for green spaces in our inner cities.

‘Dayspring’ sings of an unstoppable awakening, dedicated to the student anti gun movement in America and, more recently, to the amazing wave of new young activists walking out of school to demand better environmental policies. The album also challenges the balancing act of maintaining connections in our social media focused world. Album closer, ‘Shields Time’, encompasses all the elements of the live show, dance, body percussion, voice and a playful rhythmic communication between as the musicians in the band.

A previous collaborative project, Songs Of Separation, won the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Best Album in 2017; while Hannah’s vocal trio Lady Maisery produced three critically acclaimed albums and was nominated for the Horizon Award at the BBC Folk Awards. Her most recent project began solo before becoming the JigDoll Ensemble, was acclaimed as “the highlight of the festival” at the Folk Expo Manchester in late 2017, debuting to a standing ovation from professional delegates from across the world.

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Artist’s website: https://jigdoll.co.uk

Two years old but still worth watching. Hannah James – Jigdoll – live:

TOUR DATES

FRIDAY 4th OCTOBER – The Cube Malvern

www.malverncube.com/ticketed-events

SATURDAY 5th OCTOBER – Kings Place, London

www.kingsplace.co.uk/whats-on/folk/the-jigdoll-ensemble

SUNDAY 6th OCTOBER – The Y Theatre, Leicester

www.leicesterymca.co.uk/show/?showid=3eccb920-d170-e911-80e8-00505601004c

MONDAY 7th OCTOBER – The Library Theatre, Sheffield

www.wegottickets.com/event/479134

TUESDAY 8th OCTOBER – The Stoller Hall, Manchester

https://stollerhall.com/whats-on/hannah-james-and-the-jigdoll-ensemble/

FRIDAY 11th OCTOBER – Turner Sims, Southampton

www.turnersims.co.uk/events/jigdoll-ensemble/

SATURDAY 12th OCTOBER – Quay Arts, Isle Of Wight

www.quayarts.org/event/the-jig-doll-ensemble/

THURSDAY 17th OCTOBER – Furness Tradition, Ulverston

 

 

Applications are invited for funding from the Alan Surtees Trust

Alan Surtees Trust

A trust that aims to support and enhance the career of young folk performers has opened its 2019 round of funding.

Three awards of up to £1,000 each will be made to emerging musicians, dancers or singers by the Alan Surtees Trust, which was established in memory of the co-founder and director of Shrewsbury Folk Festival who died in June 2017.

Grants will be given to artists who show exceptional skill, talent and promise in their field and whose work is rooted in, or influenced by, folk and traditional music and arts. The funding can go towards a variety of uses included mentoring, new instruments and equipment, or recording a debut album.

The first round of funding in 2018 went to cellist Phoebe Jo Harty, who used the grant to attend music camps to be tutored by some of the world’s leading cello players in the folk genre; Anna Hughes, who bought a new violin to advance her playing career; and music student Louis Campbell, who purchased equipment including a microphone, pickup pre-amplifier and pickup to improve his live sound and the quality of home recordings.

Nearly 50 applications were received in the trust’s inaugural funding round last year. Trust chair Hannah James said:

“We were delighted with the response and are hoping for more applications this year.

“Securing funding can be very hard for young amateur musicians and dancers and it can have a life changing impact on how their career progresses. We know there is a wealth of young talent out there and we are looking to support individuals and new music and dance projects in the folk tradition. Alan was passionate about offering young performers an opportunity and we’re happy to continue this work in his name.”

The trust has produced two compilation CDs to raise funds featuring artists including Billy Bragg, Oysterband, Martyn Joseph, Karine Polwart, and Fay Hield. Resound can be purchased through www.fishrecords.co.uk. It was also supported by a special fundraising DJ set by musician and producer Jon Hopkins.

QUALIFYING CRITERIA

 Applicants for the grants should be aged between 16 and 30 at the time of application. They must live in the UK and not already have significant financial backing.

Grants of up to £1,000 per person will be given for mentoring and tuition from experts in the genre, hiring of rehearsal and creative space, costs towards new instruments and equipment, recording and production of a debut album, production of promotional materials or project research and development expenses such as artist fees or travel expenses

The closing date for applications is April 26. Only successful candidates will be contacted and the three successful recipients will be announced in June.

For more information and to apply for a grant go to: www.alansurteestrust.org.uk. Follow the trust on Twitter @ASurteesTrust or on Facebook @AlanSurteesTrust

GRACE PETRIE – Queer As Folk (own label)

Queer As FolkThe only time I saw Grace Petrie on stage, I was bowled over. I bought an EP and was impressed by that. Always her own person and doing things her way, Grace could now be on the verge of a breakthrough. Thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, Queer As Folk is a properly funded album produced by Matthew Daly, who also plays drums, and mixed by Neil Ferguson. Some stellar friends joined her: Miranda Sykes on bass, Hannah James on accordion, Nancy Kerr on fiddle, Belinda O’Hooley on piano and Caitlin Field on bass and percussion. Grace is powerful enough on her own but this gathering pushes her on to another level.

Queer As Folk opens with ‘A Young Woman’s Tale’, a remarkably understated take on Ian Campbell’s ‘Old Man’s Song’ dragged into the 21st century. Its quietness adds to the power of Grace’s words but up next comes an up-tempo reading of Graham Moore’s ‘Tom Paine’s Bones’, its pace suggesting a sense of impatience and leaving the listener breathless. ‘This House’ concerns the death of a father, whether Grace’s own we are not told, full of a sense of emptiness like the house he’s left behind. ‘Baby Blue’ is about love betrayed and the powerful ‘Pride’ puts it into context and is where the band comes into its own.

These two songs lead into the superb ‘Black Tie’, which takes the form of a postcard to Grace’s teenage self, reassuring her that it all will work out and containing one of the best rhymes of the year. Grace is affirming her identity here as if we were in any doubt about it. It would be a great single except that it wouldn’t get radio play – the rhyme I mentioned would see to that.

The other cover is ‘Beeswing’. I tend to get a bit protective about Richard Thompson songs but Grace doesn’t need to make many changes except to lose the word “man”. But, and it’s a big but, she misses out the verse about marrying Romany Brown. Why? Is L all right but not B? That’s a disappointment. Nancy and Caitlin give it a folky swing on fiddle and bodhran and it’s one of the best arrangements of the song I’ve heard.

We’re back to politics with ‘Farewell To Welfare’, a song with a really powerful wrap-up but then ‘Iago’ seems to contradict ‘Black Tie’ and I’m still figuring that one out. The closer, ‘Northbound’, sets the life of an itinerant musician to a rocking country beat and is a great way for the record to sign off. Queer As Folk may well turn out to be one of my albums of the year – it’s not perfect but it’s not far off.

Dai Jeffries

Please support us and order via our UK or US Storefront 


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Artist’s website: www.gracepetrie.com

‘Iago’ – live:

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Resound (Shrewsbury Folk Festival)

ResoundCurated by Hannah James and released by Shrewsbury Folk Festival, Resound is a multi-tasking album. Firstly, it’s a tribute to Alan Surtees, founder and organiser of the festival and secondly, it’s a fundraiser for the Alan Surtees Trust which aims to give grants to young musicians and new musical projects. All the music comes from artists who have been associated with Shrewsbury over the years, often through projects commissioned by the festival.

The album has been, for the most part, cleverly sequenced. It opens with Oysterband’s powerful acapella version of ‘Bright Morning Star’ which certainly makes you sit up and pay attention and follows that with Jon Boden’s mighty ‘Audabe’. The foot comes off the loud pedal just a little wiith Patsy Reid’s ‘Thugainn’. I like the way that ‘Song For Lola’ by Lucy Ward is followed by Fay Hield’s ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ – two unashamedly northern voices side by side. Perhaps living in those climes during my formative years has made me equate the accent with authenticity. I wish that Kefaya’s ‘Indignados’ had been placed beside Grace Petrie’s ‘They Shall Not Pass’ – two songs about Spanish politics, albeit separated by several decades should be available to compare and contrast. The Demon Barbers’ version of ‘Ranzo’ is as good as anything they do but perhaps it could have been saved for a big finish.

The album now turns to pastoral themes. ‘The Lincolnshire Song’ by Miranda Sykes is gorgeous (although I’m holding out for the Peak District, Miranda) and Leveret’s ‘Bagpipers’ is one of their gentler pieces. ‘Vanished Birds’, another fine song by Jack Harris is followed by the lightest version of ‘Neil Gow’s Lament’ I’ve ever heard. Hannah modestly saves her own contributions for late in the proceedings. First comes ‘Tuulikki’s Tune’ from her Jigdoll album and then ‘Order & Chaos’ by Lady Maisery.

Karine Polwart’s ‘We’re All Leaving’ makes for an appropriate ending although I can never decide if a record like this is better served with a period of reflection at the end or something rousing and defiant. Whatever you think, you should buy this album – you wiill enjoy it and you’ll be contributing to a good cause.

Dai Jeffries

Project website: www.shrewsburyfolkfestival.co.uk/more/alan-surtees-trust/

‘Tuulikki’s Tune’ – live:

COVEN – Unholy Choir (own label COVENCD01)

Unholy ChoirIn case you haven’t been paying attention, let me explain. Coven combines the prodigious talents of Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow, Lady Maisery (Hazel Askew, Hannah James and Rowan Rheingans) and Grace Petrie. They have worked together, when commitments permit, for about three years having got together for International Women’s Day but Unholy Choir is the first time they have recorded. A word of warning, though, this six-track EP will only be available at gigs on their tour starting on March 1st.

Much of the material is drawn from back catalogues but these are all new recordings that combine the power of six voices and their instrumental skills. The opening track is ‘Coil & Spring’, written by O’Hooley and Tidow with the assistance of Boff Whalley about the Pussy Riot protest. I must have chosen itself as it gives the EP its title. Next is ‘Bread & Roses’. Rowan has given the song a new tune which makes it less of a march with a much more English feel. An inspired move.

‘This Woman’s Work’ is an obvious choice and Kate Bush’s song gives the group something to get their musical teeth into but, being old and male, I prefer ‘Quitting Time’ by the late Maggie Roche. Its footloose feel is enhanced by Belinda’s rolling piano but softened by the sweetness of six voices in harmony. Grace wrote ‘If There’s A Fire In Your Heart’ and she sings it an appropriately confrontational style. The message is simple: get out there and do something, however small.

The final track was recorded live. It’s Pat Humphries’ anthemic ‘Never Turning Back’. It’s a song I didn’t know from a writer I hadn’t heard of but I wasn’t surprised to learn that Pat knew Pete Seeger. Coven sing it a capella (the way Pat does) using the natural acoustics of Cooper Hall where they made the record and it brings the set to a rousing, optimistic close.

You have twelve chances this year to hear Coven live and acquire a copy of Unholy Choir. Don’t miss out.

Dai Jeffries

Tickets: www.ohooleyandtidow.com/gigs

‘This Woman’s Work’ live:

Belinda O’Hooley talks to Folking about Coven

Coven
Photograph by Elly Lucas

There’s a new gang in town and if their publicity photographs are any guide they mean business. Coven combines the talents of O’Hooley & Tidow, Lady Maisery (Hazel Askew, Hannah James and Rowan Rheingans) and singer Grace Petrie. Belinda O’Hooley explains how it all came about.

“We were introduced to Grace’s work by Huw Pudner at The Valley Folk Club in Pontardawe. He was raving about her, and around the same time, Jude Abbott from the No Masters Co-op was also singing her praises. We watched some of her stuff on YouTube and thought she was such a firebrand, standing up for what she believes in and doing great things for women. We spent a summer doing the same concerts at festivals as Lady Maisery and were blown away by their live show. We got to know them along the way. Heidi and Rowan chatted about doing something as a collective at some point, and here we all are!

“Coven was Heidi’s idea. She had previously set up a Women Make Music night in Huddersfield and had experience of this sort of thing. Both Lady Maisery and Grace Petrie were well up for forming a collective with us and celebrating International Women’s Day in a series of concerts. The first Coven tour was just three dates which all sold out. The second year, we played ten dates and this year, we’ve got twelve.”

The name could be something of a hostage to fortune. Whose idea was it?

“I can’t remember who thought the name up, it wasn’t me. I think it suits us; a gaggle of witches.”

I couldn’t possibly comment on that but the press photos seem to suggest that Belinda and Heidi are the dominant force. Either that or it’s a case of big’uns in the middle and little-uns on the ends.

Coven
Photograph by Elly Lucas

“Ha! I think it looks like me and Rowan have got married and the rest of Coven are our bridesmaids. Elly Lucas took the photo at Kellam Island in Sheffield. We love the way she utilises the background of a rusty metal fence with the sunlight, to create texture and atmosphere. She’s a bit good. Looking at that photo, I wouldn’t want to mess with any of us.”

Again, I couldn’t possibly comment but what can we expect from a Coven gig?

“The show consists of us performing separately in our bands and also collectively together on existing material and also songs that Coven members have brought to the group. Over the course of the last two tours, these songs have taken on a life of their own and it has been very rewarding and exciting to record them and make an EP.”

Having developed rather below the radar over the last couple of years, Coven are embarking on a fully-fledged tour in March. Can we take it that Coven will be an on-going project?

“I think all of us want Coven to be an ever developing project as we all have so much to give to it. We all seem to get on really well and there is room for creativity and expression both individually and as a collective. It helps that we all like vegan food too. Hannah James is the most wonderful vegan chef, and kept us all fed beautifully for the five days we spent at Cooper Hall, Frome recording the EP. Fay Goodridge invited us there, and through their bursary scheme, we were able to record in their extraordinary venue. This EP, recorded by me and Heidi and mixed and mastered by Neil Ferguson will be available initially exclusively on the tour”

And that’s something else to look forward to.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ websites: http://ohooleyandtidow.com/ https://www.ladymaisery.com/about
http://gracepetrie.com/