West Country folk-rock duo, Sound Of The Sirens, have shared ‘The Yellow Road’, the latest track to be taken from their upcoming album This Time, out January 25th via DMF Records.
Showcasing the duo’s virtuosic capability for rousing songwriting and mesmerising harmonies, ‘The Yellow Road’ is a touching and heartfelt track, flowing from beautifully subtle verses to choruses that swell in both intensity and emotion. The track follows the release of ‘Troubles’ at the end of 2018, the first single to be taken from the album.
This Time – the follow-up to their debut album, For All Our Sins, which was released in 2017 to widespread praise – continues to showcase an evident gift for crafting unique, vivid and enduring melodies over 15 heartfelt tracks.
“This Time is a collection of moments, emotions, challenges and stories,” say the duo. “We’ve collected lyrics, melodies and ideas from the past couple of years for this project. We created this album last winter in an isolated barn in Wales with only guitars, a piano, wine and the dogs for company. The themes of time, love, loss, perseverance, hope and clarity are intertwined in these songs.”
Throughout the album, Sound Of The Sirens – duo Abbe Martin and Hannah Wood – blend intoxicating vocal harmonies with beautifully crafted instrumentals to create a seamless collection of captivating tracks.
The album will be available digitally, on CD and black heavyweight vinyl, with signed copies available to pre-order now from Sound Of The Sirens’ online store ‘Troubles’ is available as an instant grat with all album pre-orders.
Sound Of The Sirens will embark on a 20-date UK tour this month, including dates in Exeter, Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow and Manchester, and a date at London’s St Pancras Church.
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Welcome to the 2018 Folking Awards and thank you again to everyone who participated last year. The nominations, in eight categories, come from our ever-expanding team of writers and were wrangled into shape with considered argument and arm-wrestling by the Folkmeister and the Editor.
There are five nominees in each category, all of whom have impressed our writers during 2017.
As with the format last year, all are winners in our eyes, as are quite a few who didn’t make the short list. However, it’s not just down to what we think, so again, there will be a public vote to decide the overall winner of each category.
*The Public Vote for each category will close at 9.00pm on Sunday 1st April (GMT+1).
Soloist Of The Year
Sound of the Sirens consist of Exeter-based duo Abbe Martin and Hannah Wood. Their debut album For All Our Sins is released on May 5th and will then be toured around the country.
The duo have built up a loyal fanbase with a number of EPs and live performances in venues as varied as Exeter Cathedral, the Isle of Wight Festival – and live on the Chris Evans show. The two have sung together for more than ten years and it’s easy to understand why they are so popular – voices harmonising beautifully on predominantly up tempo music. There’s a nod to Simon and Garfunkel in the duo’s band name – and there’s more than a nod in the way that their two contrasting voices harmonise together.
The new single ‘Smokescreen’ is the first track on the album and should get radio play for its liveliness and the clean acoustic guitars playing behind the voices. ‘Together Alone’ and ‘Possibilities’ would also make good singles and you can see how strong a reaction they get from an audience in the video (below) of ‘Together Alone’ on TFI Friday.
Other songs are closer to the folk tradition. Have a listen to the guitar and the interplay of voices on ‘Mr Wilson’ a hauntingly beautiful song about “The chemistry of a new relationship, unsure of where it is going, but knowing that you want more from it” or ‘Cross Our Hearts’, both of them songs which fit easily into the folk tradition of the last fifty years.
But listen also to ‘In This Time’, ‘Grow’ or even ‘The Circus’. These are songs from a very modern folk tradition (if that’s not a contradictory phrase) of a generation that has grown up with the rhythms of rap as well as the rhythms of rock and folk. Coco and the Butterfields do this as a band, Grace Petrie as a solo artist and, from the evidence of this album, Sound of the Sirens as a tremendously tight duo. But also, however good the album is, I suspect it’s probably the smaller part of what they do – what I’d really like is to see them live, part of a crowd dancing along to the music.
To tie in with the release of For All Our Sins, Sound of the Sirens will be touring across the country in May and at Festivals in the summer. Dates are on the website.
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There’s a certain transcendent magic that happens when two contrasting voices coalesce in perfect harmony – think The Everly Brothers, Simon & Garfunkel or George Jones and Tammy Wynette. Imperceptibly, they can raise you from the temporal to the spiritual in the breath of a song, and set you floating among the firmament infused with a sense of wonder – just like Sound Of The Sirens.
Exeter-based duo Abbe Martin and Hannah Wood dovetail beautifully on their debut album, For All Our Sins, a beguiling acoustic pop collection replete with lyrical sensibility on tracks like the first single, ‘Smokescreen’ (“Living beyond the darkness others create for us, and growing into something positive”), ‘The Circus’ (“When everyone wants something from you, who can you trust?”) and ‘Mr Wilson’ (“The chemistry of a new relationship, unsure of where it is going, but knowing that you want more from it”).
Already championed by Chris Evans – who declared himself “blown away” when he heard Sound Of The Sirens for the first time, and subsequently invited them to perform alongside U2 and Take That on TFI Friday last year – they’re certain to broaden a burgeoning fan base on the back of For All Our Sins.
It’s a fan base built up not just over several sublime EP releases – but also through their live shows, which combine a natural facility for connecting with their audiences and unforgettable performances predicated on energy, warmth, humour and, above all, real conviction.
This is true whether Sound Of The Sirens are playing the intimate environs of Exeter Cathedral, before tens of thousands at the Isle of Wight Festival or supporting Rick Astley on his UK arena tour.
“We work well together,” says Abbe, a graduate of Dartington College of Arts, who’s now a vocal coach and drama practitioner for Vocal Arts. “We have fun and a shared vision of what we want our music to do and how we want it to influence people. Music moves people and can help people overcome adversity. As performers we have a responsibility to write music that will impact and not offend. If people are listening to your voice, use it wisely.”
She and Hannah – who studied performance art at Barnstaple College – met when they worked together at the Timepiece in Exeter, the venue which gave them their debut as Sound Of The Sirens. Drawing on diverse influences, including Bob Dylan, Ed Sheeran, Joni Mitchell, KT Tunstall, The Carpenters, they write from a personal experience they feel others can relate to.
“We can also be quite inventive in our writing, using different text games to create a stimulus from which to write”, says Hannah. “We definitely put our emotion into our music and publicly vent. We often put a positive spin on the sadness that life can bring, finding strength in doing so and hopefully helping others to deal with the same issues.”
One of those issues – mental health – is the subject of ‘The Voices’.
“We’ve been moved by a mental health campaign, #itaffectsme, that’s bringing people together to be open about mental health issues. It’s also campaigning to get mental health awareness to be spoken about in primary school education to prepare the next generation. As teachers and musicians we feel this is brilliant.”
Sound Of The Sirens want to both enlighten and entertain, and they want to do it with euphony. For All Our Sins accomplishes all of the above. For All Our Sins will be released on DMF Records and available on CD, vinyl and digital.
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It is that time of year again and I had an invite to join the lads from folking.com and ‘do’ the 2016 Cropredy Festival. As a Cropredy virgin and non-camper, three days before the event I was filled with trepidation and angst, although the music beckoned! How could you not with such a line up?! This is what kept me going.
I arrived at Folkmaster Towers the day before, to be greeted by camping equipment and God knows what else – strewn all over the front lawn. Were we packing for the army? Decisions of which tent to take, go wash this, do that, but it kept my mind off sleeping in a cow field the next night! I announced I had bought a pop up tent for the occasion as it was quick and easy to put it up, I confidently said, I was told they are a nightmare to put down……..that’s another story!!! A visit to Waitrose followed the front lawn episode.
The day dawned. We were to meet the rest of the team at the ungodly hour of 7am at a service station over an hour and a half away. Everyone turned up at the appointed time, and we sped off in convoy to all arrive at the same time, to be in the same field and set up the Folking.com camp. Paul turned up with a transit van, complete with proper bed, fairy lights, toilet but no kitchen implements or the food and cooking equipment he was supposed to be bringing.
Great start but we had a laugh! We ended up in Field 4, full of cow pats but no cows thankfully. My tent went up a breeze with the help of the wonderful Chris, but our Beloved Leader was hampered by a slight drizzle and size of his tent, and then fluffed about filling it with comfy mattress and everything including the kitchen sink. Jon, Chris myself and Paul just amused ourselves while we were waiting the two and a half hours it took him to create the classic boudoir experience for himself which was only marred by the forgotten sarong which was meant to have provided some sort of Bedouin shade.
Onwards to The Field…. The Festival was opened by Fairport MC – Anthony John Clarke and Thursday kicked off with a Fairport Acoustic set, lots of people already in attendance and we had a good view from where we were, and two huge screens were either side the stage for those further back.
I was on photo duty, so could get to the stage area easily to capture the artists. One of the acts – Coco And The Butterfields were a new name to me and were suggested by Debs Earle and her daughter Rosie from Folk In The Barn, to the Fairport Team, and a good choice. Energetic vocals from these Canterbury buskers.
These were ably followed by Hayseed Dixie, whom I have wanted to see for ages. A rip-roaring Bluegrass Rock with attitude!
Madness with front man Suggs, completed the first day as Headliners. They certainly didn’t disappoint and belted out their hits and more with gusto.
We returned to our tents. I discovered a hill where my head was going to be and managed 4 hours sleep!
Friday dawned very hot, not normal Cropredy weather I’m told , went off for a shower to find the Cricket Pavilion showers blocked. I was the last one and was told I couldn’t have a shower there. Darren suggested that I should have used the excellent Fairport free ones (which he promised to point out to me, but never actually got round to doing). This advice was provided after he paid his two pounds fifty at the Cricket Pavilion, had queued, showered and dressed within ten minutes… Well, if it was going to happen to someone… It was going to happen to me! By this time the acts had started and I missed A J Clarke and Peggy, also BBC R2 YFA winner Brighde Chaimbeul, although I could hear them. Thankfully I surfaced for the female rock duo – Sound Of The Sirens who I had seen earlier this year supporting Rick Astley, they are a favourite of R2 presenter Chris Evans, have performed at Glastonbury, and are so energetic and a joy to watch and listen to. Definitely ones to watch out for.
I had to visit the medical tent… again… it could only happen to me… went in to get some different tablets for a water infection as the ones I had were not working and came back out having being wired up to an ECG machine for an irregular heartbeat. I said I had a Festival to go to, was a first time camper, had a shower disaster, had lost my tooth brush, so what did they expect!? If my ticker was dicky it would last until Sunday! (No alcohol had been consumed by the way).
Another band I enjoyed but had heard before were Willie And The Bandits who are labelled as a classic blues rock band, but they are so much more. They have played Glastonbury and all over Europe. The Cropredy crowd loved them.
Next came festival favourites Steeleye Span with Maddy Prior, who had everyone on the field eating out of their hands. Performing a mixture of songs including their latest album – The Wintersmith and of course – All Around My Hat! In 47 years, the band has notched up a family tree of member changes and like Fairport, have been one of the bands responsible for putting folk-rock on the map. They still sound great!
Friday ended with Headliners – The Bootleg Beatles – who have appeared some years ago at Cropredy. As expected, they belted out a variety of Beatle Hits and a couple of dress changes denoted different eras the Beatles went through. “George” wowed the audience with a fantastic rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” I think Cropredy were lucky to get them as they are touring all over the world shortly. Apparently they are the most successful Beatles Tribute act ever. I’m not surprised. Fabulous!
After the main act finished, the rest of the crew (all bar Chis and me) headed off to see the other Paul, Mr. Johnson who was camped near the bottom of the disabled field to listen to him do a couple of his own songs as well as meeting up with his daughter and daughters partner “Dave Longboat’ who had lost his way on the Thursday night back to campsite 4, misplaced his footing and ended up in the Canal. Dave asked me to extend his thanks to the Cropredy villagers, who were having a party at the time and came to the rescue with towels. My camping buddy Paul said, “there are only two things that go in a canal, one a longboat and the other is Dave”, hence the name. I believe that the folkmaster penned a poem to mark the occasion and Paul Johnson is rumoured to be writing a tune for it for next year.
Saturday – main day and another hot one in more ways than one – early start for getting a decent spot on The Field. Richard Digance kicked off the day’s proceedings and was so funny. He can sing well too and play a mean old rag! We ended up with 20,000 people plus doing a Morris dance with hankies! Had to be seen to be believed! Good fun.
Other highlights for me were Maia, who call themselves sci-fi folk genre. Certainly different and very watchable. Then we had Gilmore & Roberts who were a duo I had wanted to catch up with and they didn’t disappoint. They played as a four piece band and I enjoyed them very much.
The Pierce Brothers from Australia brought the house down! The brothers were overwhelmed as they had not played such a big crowd before, and seem very humbled by the response they got from the enthusiastic crowd. Fairport’s Simon Nicol said later that The Pierce Brothers had been knocked for six by the audience reaction to their music. Hope to see them back in the UK soon.
Damien Barber and his Demon Barbers was something else! An energetic fusion of song, dancing, hip hop, trad folk, everything all rolled into one. Very visual and entertaining.
Highlight of the Festival for me was the legend who is Ralph McTell. A classic gifted wordsmith, prolific guitarist and a truly genuine guy. The set included, amongst others, Barges, Pepper and Tomatoes and a rousing rendition of From Clare to Here and he had the audience eating out of his hand and rightly so. A truly fabulous performance from our National Treasure. Of course, Streets of London was there as well, and hearing 20,000 or more people singing it, was a joy in itself. You could tell by the huge smile on Ralph’s face when he finally said goodnight that the love was following in both directions with abundance! Lovely that Paul Johnson and Darren (aka Folkmaster) had done such an amazing interview with Ralph the previous day (listen again below).
Fairport Convention ended the evening and the weekend. They opened with some very funny Olympic themed visuals which you can watch again on the “Fairporters” Facebook group if you missed it. Simon Nicol made a superb speech to the memory of Fairport founder virtuoso fiddler Dave Swarbrick, who sadly died a few months ago, but who has left a fantastic musical legacy and will not be forgotten. Dave has inspired so many people to take up the fiddle over the years and will also be remembered for his song writing, sense of humour and character. The compilation of Swarb photos from across the years was also a lovely touch as well.
An outstanding set from Fairport followed which included a guest appearance from 11-year-old blues guitar wonder-boy Toby Lee, who played the lead on ‘Mr. Lacey’ (I think). Plus the traditional ‘Matty Groves’ and of course, ‘Meet On The Ledge’ ending, the point where the field, all twenty thousand of us, unify around the song that examplifies the reason we all go. My team mates and I all linked up together to sing this and felt myself welling up. I had so enjoyed my first Cropredy, been introduced to some new and amazing artists and their music, and was sorry to have to say goodbye for another year. Yes, I will be going next year for Fairport’s 50th year celebration!