Saturday, 29 June 2013

Four - Cupola:Ward

'Four' is the name of Cupola:Ward's wonderful new EP. Both the name of the band and the name of the EP are pretty self explanatory, however, in case you are unaware, Cupola:Ward is made up of the wonderful band Cupola (which brings together the brilliant musicians Sarah Matthews, Doug Eunson and Oli Matthews)  and the talented, young folk singer Lucy Ward. 'Four' contains four songs, created by four musicians, so it is a pretty practical name.

The EP opens with the song 'Cotton Mills at Cromford'. It was that was written in 1778 for an annual street party for the workers at Richard Arkwright's mill (according to the sleeve notes) and celebrates the positive aspects of working in a mill. Ironically, the words are set to the tune of 'Hard times (of old England)' which is an incredibly famous song that details how gloomy life is for tradesmen. Cupola:Ward have created there own wonderful arrangement for this song that creates a joyous atmosphere which is really fitting for the image the words portray.

'The Bone Lace Weaver' follows 'Cotton Mills at Cromford' and has a far more reflective, solemn tone. It is about the way of life for 'Bone Lace Weavers' and is said to be written by Leonard Wheatcroft, of Derbyshire, in the 17th century. Wheatcroft seems to be an interesting character who seems to have been a tailor, parish clerk, orchard planter, and soldier during the Civil War. Furthermore, it appears he was not a wealthy man as he was imprisoned three times for debt. He wrote various famous poems and may have been inspired to write this due the apprenticeship of his daughter to a bone lace weaver. The song is set to Roy Harris' tune. It is mostly sung by Lucy. I love the use of percussion on this track as well as the instrumentation which really bring out the beautiful melody. 

'When God Dips his Pen of Love in my Heart' has an incredibly different feel to it compared to the other songs. It is a bluegrass hymnal with a very upbeat tune and was written by Alison Krauss. It is beautifully sung and arranged by Cupola:Ward. 

'King of Rome' is the final song and contains the most extraordinary story. It includes some amazing four part vocal harmonies. The song was written by Dave Sudbury. It has no musical accompaniment which really focuses the listeners attention on the wonderful story about someone who keeps. It is a truly beautiful song.

Furthermore, I recently saw Cupola:Ward live at Gower Folk Festival, and they were the most amazingly energetic performance I have ever seen. I really recommend going and seeing Cupola:Ward live as well as buying this new EP and I am sure in the future we will hear a lot more about them.

(pic - Lucy Ward at Gower Folk Festival 2013)

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Liberty to Choose - James Findlay, Bella Hardy, Brian Peters and Lucy Ward

 This CD is made up from selected tracks from The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. As an owner of this fantastic book of songs, I know of the wonders it contains and I understand why it is described by many as a ‘bible’ to English Folk Music. It is also very obvious why they chose this book to make a CD of songs from. 

The CD brings together the four individually talented folk singers and musicians James Findlay, Bella Hardy, Brian Peters and Lucy Ward. I am sure many of you will be aware of these talented people and know that they are all highly regarded on the folk scene. Brian Peters musically directed the three other young folk musicians in order to create this wonderful album.

The opening track, ‘The Baffled knight’ (often referred to as ‘Blow the Windy Morning’), is mostly sung by Lucy Ward and it is a brilliant, upbeat track to start the album with. It has a really catchy tune and is accompanied by violin, melodeon and guitar which really bring out the melody. I think it is a really wonderful version of this well known song and it is a massive contrast to the solemn version of 'The Seeds Of Love' which follows. 'The Seeds Of Love' is such a famous, important song within the folk tradition. It is the song that supposedly inspired Cecil Sharp to begin collecting songs after hearing John England, a gardener, sing it whilst going about his work. In this version, Bella Hardy sings it unaccompanied and it is truly beautiful. 

Another astonishingly beautiful song on the album is 'The Trees They Do Grow High' which is sung by Bella and Lucy. It contains beautiful harmonies which highlight the sad tale within the song. For me, this is a particular highlight of the album. 

I love the way the album includes many different sorts of songs with many different stories within them. It includes the transportation song 'Van Diemen's Land' and a song which is called 'The Molecatcher', which is basically about a molecatcher. Both of these songs are brilliantly sung by Brian Peters and are wonderfully arranged.  'The Molecatcher' has a really catchy, memorable chorus which you will find yourself singing a long to.

Another highlight of the album for me is 'The Jolly Waggoner' which is sung by James Findlay, who also plays the guitar and fiddle on the track. It is a song that highlight James' amazing talents and it is another song that will get you singing along. James Findlay's version of 'Barbara Allen' is also wonderful and is beautifully arranged with James playing guitar. 

The final song on the album is 'The Moon Shines Bright' which is a New Year carol. It is sung by Bella, Lucy, James and Brian. and contains no instrumental accompaniments. As you would expect, it contains really beautiful harmonies and is the perfect ending to a wonderful CD. 

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Songs From The Floodplain - Jon Boden // Review

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, where folk song is one of the few things that has prevailed, this album puts itself forward as a perfect setting for storytelling. As a follow up from Jon Boden's solo debut, Songs From The Floodplain is set to be a promising album before one has even begun listening.
The first track 'We Do What We Can' really draws the listener in with the memorable chorus and upbeat melodies and as each track gently flows into the next, the listener is left feeling a great sense of melancholy but at the same time an overwhelming feeling that this could really happen. 
As each song passes, one is taken deeper and deeper into the post-apocalyptic world and Boden's lyrics really make you appreciate what you take for granted in our current world. 
Each track is superbly arranged with excellent musicianship. From 'Don't Wake Me Up 'Til Tomorrow' to 'Beating The Bounds', two very different songs, where Boden's powerful voice comes through with beautifully meaningful and poetic lyrics striking the listener to the core.

So I thought that we should begin by writing something to explain this. We are three folk obsessed teenagers from all over the UK - well England and Wales. On this Blog we plan to review CDs, gigs and festivals and discuss anything folk related.

We would appreciate any feedback you have and we are also really interested in what you have to say on folk related topics, so please feel free to add comments!

Furthermore, if you enjoy reading what we have to say, please spread the word as we would really like this to be successful!

I hope you enjoy!