VELVET & STONE – Velvet & Stone (own label LVID03)

Velvet & StoneFollowing three EPs, Devon duo singer and songwriter Lara Snowdon and violinist Kathryn Tremlett finally release their eponymous debut album, Velvet & Stone one which more than lives up to expectations.

Accompanied by Kev Jackson on guitar, producer Josiah Manning on keys and rhythm section Paddy Blight and Garry Kroll, they explore a realm of dark indie-folk that touches on both traditional and contemporary, poppy, influences. It’s the latter that kicks the album off with ‘Fisherman’s Blues’, not The Waterboys number, but a self-penned (as is all the material) song from their 2016 debut Storms EP on which, accompanied by steady march drum beat and Tremlett’s fiddle drone draws on the area’s fishing tradition and how girlfriend and wives would stare out to sea awaiting their loved ones’ return, some of whom never did.

Another previous release, ‘Oh Boy’ keeps the dark folk colours, but ups the tempo for a drums, violin and guitar driven song of unrequited love that makes effective use of dramatic musical pause and a surging chorus that suggests they’ve spent some time listening to Seth Lakeman. While charting a similar thematic course of rejection, things rein back in slightly for ‘Lay Her Down’ before it starts to build to a doomy, violin-lashed climax with Snowden’s impassioned vocals full of fire and fury.

Co-penned with Roger Styles, underlaid with keyboards and acoustic guitar, over which Tremlett’s violin weaves haunting notes, ‘Breathe’ is of a dreamier persuasion but still finds Snowdon yearning for a love out of reach.

Bubbling with pizzicato violin notes and Manning’s banjuitar, ‘Walls’ is another swelling number tossed on the tides of love resisted, drawing on siege metaphors, she sings “If I come here with my armies and breach the castle walls/Will the bricks and mortar crumble if I could love you more?”.

While that is constructed with traditional folk wattle and daub, ‘By The Water’ builds its love is blind longing and river imagery with a more folk-pop framework, opening with strummed guitar before a pulsing reminiscence of The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’ gives way to an infectious, soaring chorus. Whether by coincidence or design, there’s a watery ambience to the keys and violin on the steady rhythmic march of ‘Am I Dreaming?’ the lyrics of which combine both beating wings and undercurrent tugs, maintaining a similar soundscape and the double-tracked vocals of ‘Forget About The Rain’, a keeningly dreamy, pop-inflected number of the sun after the rain relationship metaphor variety. It ends back in traditional style with Tremlett laying down a sprightly West Country folksy fiddle backing to ‘I’ll Dream Of You Tonight’ as, again drawing on images of oceans, waves and shores, it bursts into a lively Morris-like fiddle and drums instrumental romping finale.

Hopefully, Snowdon’s songwriting doesn’t reflect the state of her own romantic life, but even if it does, the duo can rest assured that this hugely confident and impressive album is going to ensure there’s plenty of love out there for them.

Mike Davies

Artists’ website: www.velvetstonemusic.com

‘By The Water’ – officially live:

Velvet & Stone announce new EP, Embers

Velvet & Stone Embers

Devon based band Velvet & Stone release their EP Embers on 13th October 2017! The four-track EP, recorded at Cube Recording in Cornwall, is the second EP released by the band who will be celebrating the release at a launch party at the Bike Shed Theatre Cocktail Bar in Exeter on 13th October followed by a string of dates around the South West.

The EP follows on from their successful single release ‘Raise Your Ghosts’ in August 2017. which received critical acclaim from the music press and airtime on BBC Radio 2. In addition to recording, the band have been focusing on their live appearances, with performances at Cambridge Folk Festival and Celtic Connections under their belt.

Since releasing their first EP, The Storm, in April 2016, the band have had some changes to their line-up, with Lara Snowdon [guitar and vocals] and Kathryn Tremlett [violin and piano] welcoming Roger Styles on guitar and vocals, and Barry Muir on bass and double bass. The new EP also features acclaimed cellist Caroline Lavelle [Radiohead; Massive Attack; Muse; Loreena McKennit; Afro Celt Sound System], and producer/engineer Gareth Young on percussion across all of the tracks.

Lara, vocalist and writer, explains that

“We’ve had a really inspiring time over the past twelve months – working with new musicians, doing a lot of writing, and honing our sound. We draw on modern singer-songwriter influences such as Ben Howard, Bon Iver, Beth Orton, Lisa Hannigan, Sarah Jarosz, Martha Tilston, in addition to folk rock bands like Seth Lakeman, The Levellers, The Cranberries, and the classics – Fleetwood Mac, Crosby, Stills and Nash and Fairport Convention”.

Inspiration for these new tracks is drawn from the sea and natural landscapes, choosing to record at Cube Studios in Cornwall with acclaimed producer Gareth Young has been a natural progression. Velvet & Stone recorded a demo there last winter when Gareth – who has worked with many pop and folk artists – was immediately taken by the band and by Lara’s voice.

“There aren’t many times when we just go – Blimey! Lara’s got one of those voices definitely. There’s just a quality to it that’s just really good, really stunning, and just easy to make sound good.”

And what influence has he brought to the EP?

“There’s more going on with a bit more of a ‘band’ sound than their first record. I think they’ve got a great EP, with some fantastic songs and some great lyrics.”

Radio 2 Folk Award winner Sam Kelly is equally excited having heard the new material:

“Velvet & Stone push the boundaries of genre by combining folk themes with catchy pop hooks and great songs, all lead by Lara’s brilliant vocals. I would recommend this record to anyone”

Artists’ website: www.velvetstonemusic.com

‘Embers’ – official video:

Velvet & Stone announce debut album

Velvet & Stone

The Storm is the debut release from Devon-based alt-folk trio Velvet & Stone. Lyrically drawing on a rich palette of life stories, life events, the natural world and melancholy West Country tales, The Storm is exquisitely delivered in six haunting compositions, topped by distinctive vocals, crisp guitars and soaring violin.

Formed by “fates colliding” at a Devon pub in February 2014, Velvet & Stone comprises Lara Snowdon (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Holly Jo Gilbert-West (lead vocals, acoustic guitar) and Kathryn Tremlett (violin, piano).

“We all bring different things to the group,” says Lara. “Holly and I have a folk background. Kat adds another dimension with her classical past.”

“We all contribute to the writing and play around with a mix of genres. Our songs focus on stories of us, people we know, or things we’re inspired by. We’re lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world and that comes through in our music,” Holly explains.

Within months of forming, the talented trio won an opportunity to record at The Convent – a venue and studio in Stroud, Gloucestershire and The Storm is the stunning result.

Joining Velvet & Stone for the recording sessions were renowned musicians Ben Nicholls (Seth Lakeman, Patsy Reid) on bass, and drummer Andrew Tween (Seth Lakeman, Show of Hands), while producer Jack Henderson (Over The Rhine, Cowboy Junkies) also played guitar and keyboards.

The Storm opens with the sublime ‘Fisherman’s Blues’, which focuses on a girl growing up in a fishing town. “It’s a folk song from a female perspective and is about the cycle of life,” says Lara, while ‘Forget About The Rain’ concerns heartbreak, and ‘Patchwork’, an equally poignant take on love, but with references to Devon, closing with the majestic title track.

“I wrote ‘The Storm’ on a beach in Cornwall,” says Lara. “It’s about the sense of feeling alive when there’s a storm coming. Soon after that we went up to Holly’s house and her mum was going storm chasing, so that added to it, although it’s metaphorical, not just about a physical storm.”

A compact, diverse and beguiling debut set, The Storm is sure to boost Velvet & Stone’s growing reputation.

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Artists’ website: https://velvetstonemusic.com/

‘Same Old Record’ and ‘The Storm’ – live at The Convent: