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:

Halsway Manor – call for Artists In Residence 2018

Halsway ManorHalsway Manor – National Centre for the Folk Arts
Halsway Lane, Nr Crowcombe, Taunton TA4 4BD

 Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts is seeking applications from artists, companies or groups to be Artists in Residence for 2018. The successful artist will follow in the footsteps of  acclaimed folk trio Faustus (Benji Kirkpatrick, Saul Rose, Paul Sartin) in 2016, and celebrated female vocal trio Lady Maisery (Rowan Rheingans, Hazel Askew, Hannah James) in 2017.

Halsway Manor nestles on the Quantock Hills in one of the most beautiful regions of the UK, and is a fantastic and inspiring building which promotes the generation of ideas and development. With a large folk arts library, full residential facilities for up to 65 people and six acres of gardens and grounds it offers a home from home, a space to breathe and create, a magical environment.

The content of any residency at Halsway Manor is formulated between the artists and the management of the Charity. The residency could include leading courses at the Manor, researching and developing new material, working with communities, creating work in response to the setting, or simply finding time to be together in an environment which is conducive to sparking new ideas.

Halsway Manor wishes to hear from artists working within the genre of folk who have, or are developing, a national/international profile to form a symbiotic relationship which promotes and develops the work of both partners. This is not a paid opportunity but the Manor is able to offer the use of their facilities, accommodation and resources, and to partner in any funding bids for the development of work.

Artists wishing to be considered for Halsway Manor Artists in Residence should send an expression of interest to chiefexec@halswaymanor.org.uk by 3rd April 2017 outlining the reasons for their interest, and anticipated aims/outcomes for the residency. More details are available on the website: www.halswaymanor.org.uk.

COVEN live at the West End Centre, Aldershot

Coven
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

Coven aren’t so much a group as a collective made up of three elements. On the one hand there is the musical delicacy of Lady Maisery and on the other the homespun Yorkshire charm that O’Hooley & Tidow exploit. In the middle is Grace Petrie, a thorn between two roses, and more of her anon.

They originally came together three years ago to celebrate International Women’s Day, which coincidentally was the date of this event, and their show still has that as its central theme.  Lady Maisery opened with ‘Sing For The Morning’ from their latest album followed by ‘Portland Town’, a remarkable arrangement featuring fiddle and feet before finishing with ‘The Crow On The Cradle’.

Next came Grace Petrie who I hadn’t heard before. She’s something of a fire-brand and the wit of her stage chat carries over into her writing. Her first song, ‘A Revolutionary In The Wrong Time’, describes her career: “not folky enough for Whitby; not cool enough for Cambridge” is her self-deprecating description. The second song, written for her niece Ivy, describes rushing away from Glastonbury to be home for her arrival. It is probably the most unsentimental sentimental song you’ll hear and Grace wrapped up her set with her contender for the new national anthem, ‘God Save The Hungry’. I really liked her and her crusade to prove that there are still protest singers around – and that there is still a need for them.

Belinda and Heidi chose three songs about inspiring women: ‘Beryl’ and ‘The Pixie’ from Shadows and ‘Too Old To Dream’ from their first album. Three songs about three very different women in very different circumstances.

Coven only sang six songs as a unit, the six that appear on their EP, ‘Unholy Choir’, and I found that a little disappointing. The first of these closed the first half: Rowan Rheingans’ new setting of ‘Bread And Roses’ which dispenses with the martial rhythm of the more usual version.

The second set followed a slightly different pattern. O’Hooley & Tidow opened with ‘Gentleman Jack’ and ‘The Needle & The Hand’ before bringing the whole group together for ‘Coil & Spring’. Lady Maisery did likewise with ‘Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood’ and ‘Order And Chaos’ before ‘This Woman’s Work’. Grace’s two solos led into ‘If There’s A Fire In Your Heart’ to close the show.

Well, of course, there were two encores; The Roches’ ‘Quittin’ Time’ and ‘Never Turning Back’ and Coven really gave us our money’s worth with a show that lasted well over two hours and never outstayed its welcome. There are five gigs left on this tour and that will be it until next year unless the rumours of summer festivals are true. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Dai Jeffries

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

Venue website: https://hampshireculturaltrust.org.uk/

‘This Woman’s Work’:

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/

Lady Maisery release new album MAYDAY

This week sees the release of MAYDAY, the bold and highly anticipated new album from Lady Maisery.

Lady Maisery burst onto the folk scene in 2011 with their hit debut album Weave & Spin. After a hectic 18 months of touring, festival appearances and performances on national radio, Lady Maisery return with MAYDAY, a daring collection of stories about different human struggles. Many of the songs are warnings, often lamenting personal tragedies to expose a wider social injustice, whilst others reveal the determination of the human spirit and the persistence of life.

Lady Maisery break new ground as one of the first UK groups to explore the tradition of diddling or tune singing, which has nearly died out in England, but is still prevalent in Scandinavia and other parts of Europe.

MAYDAY builds on the strengths of Weave & Spin, but ventures away from the safety of conventional harmony singing territory. It is Lady Maisery’s voices which are at the heart of the album, which demonstrates their remarkable ability to blend and sing as one. Their distinctive style of harmony runs throughout, as they unite a range of influences from Eastern Europe, America, Scandinavia and Britain, to create their own characteristic sound.

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LADY MAISERY RELEASE CHARITY SINGLE TO CELEBRATE INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2013

LADY MAISERY RELEASE CHARITY SINGLEThis March, BBC Radio 2 Folk Award nominated band Lady Maisery are releasing a charity download single to celebrate International Women’s Day 2013. The trio will be releasing their own version of Kate Bush’s This Woman’s Work, with all profits going to support the work of the End Violence Against Women Coalition. The song will also celebrate the start of Women’s History Month, which begins on International Women’s Day (March 8th), and will be available to download online from Monday 4th March.

This Woman’s Work is Lady Maisery’s first release since their acclaimed debut album Weave & Spin in 2011 and features the trio’s unique style of vocal harmony, whilst showing a major development from their earlier material. The single maintains the energy of Kate Bush’s original version, but is a bold new interpretation; underpinned by Scandinavian inspired fiddle accompaniment and driven by Lady Maisery’s characteristic vocals – three distinctive voices blended in striking harmony.

“All three of us have always loved Kate Bush and her original, iconic style. We were struck by the way this song shows the complexities of the relationship between a man and a woman before the birth of their first child, addressing the possibilities of loss whilst exploring the situation from a man’s point of view. It felt like an unusual angle for a song, and Kate’s lyrics get straight to the heart of this very human relationship, illustrating the complicated gender roles and emotions at play. Understanding the complexity of experiences like this is an important part of working towards more equal relationships between men and women, which is why we chose this song to release on International Women’s Day.”

The track has been produced by Andy Bell and is a special remix from Lady Maisery’s much anticipated second album, due for release in June 2013. The artwork was created by Joel Stewart, illustrator, author and creator of BBC Television’s  Abney and Teal.

Lady Maisery are proud to be supporting the End Violence Against Women Coalition, a unique coalition of organisations and individuals campaigning to end all forms of violence against women. The group was set up in 2005 when women’s organisations and others came together to lobby the government to take a more strategic approach to ending violence against women, including making a commitment to work which aims to prevent violence against women. They continue to lobby all levels of government in the UK, and challenge the wider cultural attitudes that tolerate and condone violence against women. Lady Maisery are delighted to be donating all profits from the single to End Violence Against Women:

             “We are all passionate about campaigning for women’s rights and promoting feminism, and this is often reflected in the songs we’ve chosen to sing. We’re very excited to be working with the End Violence Against Women Coalition this International Women’s Day and supporting the important work they do raising awareness about violence against women, lobbying local and national government and campaigning to protect women’s support services. The current UK government’s austerity measures are adversely affecting women by cutting vital women’s services, making job losses in the predominantly female public sector and cutting funding for children’s services on which many working parents rely. International Women’s Day is a good time to reflect on this and continue to work for change, as well as celebrate strong, independent women around the world”

Web links: WWW.ENDVIOLENCEAGAINSTWOMEN.ORG.UK – WWW.INTERNATIONALWOMENSDAY.COM