MISHRA – The Loft Tapes (Hudson MSR004)

The Loft TapesFronted by guitarist Ford Collier and vocalist-banjo player Kate Griffin, winners of the inaugural Christian Raphael prize at last year’s Cambridge Folk Festival, and augmented by jazz-folk double bassist Joss Mann-Hazell, Mishra are a new Sheffield-based ‘global folk collective’, the instrumentation on their debut album, The Loft Tapes,  encompassing clawhammer banjo, African calabash, Irish whistle and bouzouki with John Ball, their mentor at Sheffield university, guesting on tabla.

Each track a single live take recorded on analogue tape, predominantly self-penned, as you might surmise it straddles several musical styles and cultures, opening with a 50 second drone, whistle and banjo intro improvisation on ‘Raag Jog’, a Hindustani classical raga (the trio are named for a Hindu Brahmin surname), before tabla picks up the thread into ‘Road Dust and Honey’ merging eastern and Gaelic flavours and suggesting such influences as Davy Graham and Jack Rose.

Banjo and whistle make the running on ‘Chase The Sparrowhawk’, another instrumental, that sounds traditional but was written by Collier. Indeed, the album has a balance between tunes and songs, the former also encompassing ‘Jog For Joy’, tabla and banjo playing off each other in a hybrid of raga and jig, and the six-minute jam closer ‘Morphology’ that, in addition to banjo, whistle and table, also features Collier reciting in Tabla Bol, the spoken form of tabla drums.

Returning to the songs, among the their own work particularly noteworthy are the plaintively waltzing Appalachian-shaded ‘Beautfully Blind’ which, for some reason, reminds me of ‘Lord of All Hopefulness’, the jazz-inflected, whistle-driven ‘Taru Taru’ (which may or may not have anything to do with race of magic users in Final Fantasy) and, the most folksy of them all, ‘Keep Your Kindness’, the only number on which Collier and Griffin share the vocal parts.

There’s also two non-originals, the first being an arrangement of ‘Angeline The Baker’, a song written by Stephen Foster for the Christy Minstrels in 1850, in which the narrator (male but sung here by Griffin) laments that he should have married the titular Angeline, a slave who has now been sent away by her owner.

The other, and one which further nods to their Americana sensibilities, is a faithful reading of Gillian Welch’s unsettling Southern Gothic number ‘Scarlet Town’ from The Harrow & The Harvest. Together, they make for an impressive and multi-textured debut and it’ll be interesting to see how they expand their global folk fusions in albums to come.

Mike Davies

Artists’ website: www.mishramusic.co.uk

‘Scarlet Town’ – live:

Mishra announce their debut album

Award winning new band Mishra release their debut album The Loft Tapes on December 7th

Mishra

Mishra are an exciting new band based in Sheffield and led by Ford Collier and Kate Griffin. Ford and Kate won the inaugural Christian Raphael prize at the 2018 Cambridge Folk Festival and used the award money to record their first album as Mishra which they are now touring the country with.

Mishra describe themselves as a global folk “collective”. With strong roots in U.K folk, they weave a tight web of intricate, Indian-influenced original music that defies genre labels. Led by Kate Griffin’s voice and inimitable clawhammer banjo and driven by Ford Collier’s continent-hopping instrumental skills (Indian tabla, African calabash, Irish whistle and guitar). Ford and Kate were both separately shortlisted for the 2018 BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Awards in different projects. Both are already accomplished folk musicians (The Drystones and The Unsung Roots) 2018 saw them play Sidmouth Folk Week, Cambridge Folk Festival, Priddy Folk Festival and many more.

Until 2019, Mishra performed as a duo under the name Kate Griffin and Ford Collier; their sound has now been further underpinned by the addition of versatile jazz-folk double-bassist and bouzouki player and fellow Sheffield University alumni Joss Mann-Hazell.

For the debut Mishra album it was important to Kate and Ford that they capture the spirit of their live performances. So each track is made from a single take recorded live on analogue tape. They did this in the seclusion of a farmhouse loft in a secret Gloucestershire location. The result captures the energy of performance and the atmosphere of the setting. It’s interesting to note that on the final track ‘Morphology’, Ford recites inTabla Bol (the spoken form of the tabla drums).

As Ford says “We didn’t want the recording process to interfere with our music. We wanted to capture the fun we have in performing”. For these loft tapes they were joined by their Sheffield university mentor John Ball who is an accomplished table player and has been a mentor to the Mishra performers. His contribution allowed Mishra to produce a full band sound on live-in-room analogue tapes.

Kate says “It was such a pleasure to work with John and it helped us achieve our musical vision. He got all of us passionate about this music, so it was great to have him with us as we finished this project”

The Loft Tapes is officially released on 7th December at a concert in Kate’s hometown of Kempsford and Mishra will be touring the album across the UK in November ahead of the launch. You can find out more about their “uniquely accessible Indo-folk” on their website www.mishramusic.co.uk .

‘Taru Taru’ – live: