DARIA KULESH – Long Lost Home (own label)

Long Lost HomeI sometimes feel that I’ve lived with this album for almost as long as Daria has. I heard all the songs as they were released in their various ways; I talked to Daria about the background to the project and some of the stories and even got a sneak preview of the cover art. After all the anticipation I began to have a niggling fear that Long Lost Home might prove to be an anti-climax. What do I know?

Daria’s first solo album, Eternal Child, was autobiographical in the personal sense: the story of a young woman travelling the world and having, shall we say, adventures. Long Lost Home is autobiographical in the historical sense. The long lost home is Ingushetia in the Caucasus, the ancestral home of Daria’s grandmother, a country whose people were displaced in 1944 on the orders of Stalin. There are some harrowing stories here as well as more reflective ones.

The first song we heard was ‘The Moon And The Pilot’ which originally appeared on a Folkstock sampler and then slipped into Kara’s live set. Now in its proper setting it has blossomed to become the keystone of the record. You probably know it by heart if you’ve read this far but if not I won’t spoil the story for you. It sits second on Long Lost Home, following ‘Tamara’, based on words by the Russian romantic painter and poet, Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov, about an immortal siren – there is an abrupt change in mood from the mythical to the painfully truthful in these two songs. Next comes ‘Safely Wed’ – arranged marriage was normal in Ingushetia but “Auntie Nina” defied the tradition – and the magnificent ‘Amanat’, another song that crept into Kara’s live set.

When I first listened to the record after every song I thought, “go on, top that” and, remarkably, Daria does just that. In the middle of the set is ‘The Panther’, the story of an NKVD officer who refused to aid the deportations and turned vigilante. Movies have been made of slenderer stuff. That’s followed by ‘Like A God’, about Daria’s grandmother’s uncle who defied Stalin in a different way and ‘Heart’s Delight’, based on a traditional Ingush song and set to a martial beat. Many of these songs are linked to Daria’s family going back three or four generations but the subject of ‘Gone’ is herself, still living in a land that is not her own but, unlike the Ingush of seventy years ago, she can return home.

The key musicians supporting Daria are multi-instrumentalists Jonny Dyer and Jason Emberton, who also produced the record and Ingush singer Timur Dzeytov who also plays the traditional dakhchan pandar, providing some of the more exotic sounds. Kate Rouse’s hammered dulcimer is a distinctive presence as are the nyckelharpas and smallpipes of Vicki Swan. Daria is in superb voice as befits these literate songs – the word “operatic” keeps coming to mind but that isn’t right at all. It’s about power and heart and love and melancholy and about telling important stories in a very human way.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.daria-kulesh.co.uk

Long Lost Home will be launched at Cecil Sharp House on February 23rd 2017 – the anniversary of the displacement of the Ingush people.

‘The Moon And The Pilot’ – official video:

KARA live at The Convent

Kara live

The Convent used to be just that. It was bought in a semi-derelict condition a few years ago and is now a hotel, spa, studio and music venue – still a work in progress and delightfully eccentric. The owners have kept the ecclesiastical fixtures and the décor is now a blend of religion and rock’n’roll. Its only drawback is that it is high on a hill accessed via impossibly narrow lanes which were fine when the Poor Clares were in residence but are hardly suited to 21st century traffic.

The theatre itself is the first floor chapel and it was here that Kara chose to launch their second album, Some Other Shore on June 3rd. Because all the Convent’s gigs are streamed live there are no intervals and Daria Kulesh’s decision to be her own support put her under some pressure. She was worried about her voice and, accompanied by Jonny Dyer on guitar and keyboards she began with less upbeat songs from her first solo album, Eternal Child before she hit her stride with ‘At Midnight’. The final two songs are scheduled for her second album. ‘The Moon And The Pilot’ has already been heard and ‘Amanat’ will be heard many times. Both are rooted in 19th and 20th century history and politics which are major preoccupations for Daria at the moment. I won’t even try to explain to intricacies of the songs but the album they are destined for will be a major work.

The band joined Daria on stage to begin their set with ‘Rusalka’ from their debut album before starting on the new one with ‘Tamara’s Wedding’ and James Delarre in a guest role on fiddle. I was very impressed with the new material and the excellent sound balance. No one instrument dominated – except Daria’s voice, of course, and sometimes she was at her most theatrical. This was only the third gig for new box-player Phil Underwood and he has fitted in well: just two CDs and a few other songs to learn in less than six months so no pressure. His predecessor, Gary Holbrook, came from the Irish tradition but Phil is very English as his set of tunes, ‘Hollingbourne/Broadhurst Gardens’ proved. That said, he’s an expert in Cajun and Creole music which could make for an interesting fusion in time to come.

Inevitably, it is Daria that dominates on stage, but the writing is democratic. Even so, Ben Honey has been affected by her mystique. ‘Adrienne’ is a song set in England but which belongs in Kara-land, as does ‘Carousel Waltz’ but Ben pins the blame for ‘Stormteller’ on Douglas Adams. There was one Russian song, ‘Misery And Vodka’, which began with a stunning hammered dulcimer solo from Kate Rouse who also wrote ‘Black Tea Waltz’.  They admitted that their encore ‘Start Wearing Purple’ was un-rehearsed and even un-arranged but it was fun. And then it was down to the bar!

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website: www.karafolkband.com

Some Other Shore showreel:

SERIOUSKITCHEN – The Whispering Road (WildGoose Records WGS413CD)

SERIOUSKITCHEN The Whispering RoadShould you be looking for an album to confound all your expectations and destroy your preconceptions look no further, I say.

Seriouskitchen are a combination of storyteller Nick Hennessey and musicians Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer and The Whispering Road is a work they have been performing for three years. It combines two old Scandinavian stories with original and traditional music and rolls and flows with no regard for the somewhat arbitrary track divisions.

The first story is ‘The Ring’, an almost archetypal Swedish tale involving a prince, an iron ring, singing animals and trolls and we’re getting perilously close to spoilers – although the prince does seem a bit slow on the uptake. Vicki restricts herself to the traditional nyckelharpa and sings the Swedish children’s song ‘Trollmors Vagvisa’ as well as providing atmospheric backing vocals.

The second story is ‘The Giant With No Heart In His Body’, well-known across northern Europe but collected in Norway. In Seriouskitchen’s adaptation the giant is a troll and the second story provides the background to the first as well as bringing its resolution. The frightening finale is in contrast to the more light-hearted opening. Even with the modernised style of story-telling Nick retains the traditional patterns – everything happens in threes in the approved manner. However, in the modern style it is the girl who is the brains of the outfit while the prince hides in a cupboard.

The Whispering Road is a wonderful piece of invention and although it may be too late to get it for Christmas it will make a fine New Year treat.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website: www.seriouskitchen.co.uk

‘Seek Me, Find Me’ from The Whispering Road live:

ANGE HARDY – Esteesee (Story Records STREC1659)

ANGE HARDY – Esteesee (Story Records STREC1659)“Why Esteesee” asks Ange Hardy in her notes and it was a question I had asked myself in anticipation. The explanation is actually very simple. Esteesee or S.T.C. is Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the subject of Ange’s fourth album.

That Coleridge was what we might now call “a character” quickly becomes apparent as Ange picks out incidents from his life. ‘William Frend’ tells of Coleridge applauding during the trial of one of his college tutors who published a pamphlet condemning the Church liturgy. STC got away with it by blaming a one-armed man standing near him! His friendship with William and Dorothy Wordsworth is recounted in ‘Friends Of Three’; his relationship with his brother is explored in ‘George’ and a failed attempt to found a better life in America is examined in ‘Pantisocracy’.

Of course, Coleridge’s own writing plays a large part. The opening song, ‘The Foster-Mother’s Tale’, comes from a play and then we’re into The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner with two songs. The first, ‘My Captain’, is based on one of the few happy bits of the poem and will be claimed as traditional before long. It’s a song full of optimism and enthusiasm – complete with spoons by Jo May – and is in stark contrast to ‘The Curse Of A Dead Man’s Eye’. This is clever programming; the poem would be the elephant in room otherwise as would ‘Kubla Khan’ which is read by Tamsin Rosewell with accompaniment by Ange on guitar and whistle and Kate Rouse’s hammered dulcimer.

Other musical support comes from Steve Knightley, who takes lead vocals on ‘Mother You Will Rue Me’, Patsy Reid, Archie Churchill-Moss (of Moore Moss Rutter), Lukas Drinkwater (of Three Daft Monkeys), Jonny Dyer, Andrew Pearce and Steve Pledger. In her music Ange cleverly employs the rhythms and cadences of English traditional music, particularly apparent in ‘Along The Coleridge Way’ and the final ‘Elegy For Coleridge’. The packaging is equally good with excerpts from STC’s writing alongside Ange’s words. I’m not sure that every copy goes out with a greetings card, bookmark and “quill” pen but there have to be some perks in this job.

This is an excellent album. It’s rare that I’ll play a CD twice through without a break even for the purposes of a review. Esteesee is an exception.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist’s website: www.angehardy.com