Sunday, 15 September 2013

Up Through The Woods - David Gibb and Elly Lucas, Review

David Gibb and Elly Lucas are a wonderful young folk duo from Derbyshire. When I first heard that they were soon to be releasing a new album, I was really quite excited. I knew that if it was anywhere near as good as their debut – ‘Old Chairs To Mend’, then it would be something special. And I certainly was not disappointed. The album artwork is really rather wonderful, featuring Elly Lucas' unique photography. Furthermore, I think the ‘Thank Yous’ at the back of the sleeve notes have to be the most amusing I have ever read. Something I particularly like about Gibb and Lucas’ work is that they are incredibly good song writers and all their songs have rather interesting stories.
 The album begins with the track 'Jackwire' which is a fantastic toe tapper with a catchy chorus and incredibly beautiful harmonies from David and Elly. It really drew me into the album and I knew immediately that it was going to be good. The song is about Luddites who wrecked many weaving frames during the early 19th century to protest against the modern technology that had rendering many weaver unemployed. This is a brilliant example of David Gibb’s supreme song writing skills. Furthermore, the song is enhanced by David’s rhythmic guitar playing and Elly’s bouncy fiddle playing.
One of my favourite songs in the album is ‘Four Poster Bath’. It is a slightly strange love story between a woman who loves to bathe and a man who is willing to do anything to gain her love. I think it is a rather sweet song and I really like the tune that so fittingly accompanies the lyrics as well as Gibb’s delicate guitar playing on this track. The title track of the album is ‘Up Through The Woods’ which is about walking through a woods and all your cares departing. I particularly like the ending of this song where it is sung as a round. It is set to the tune of ‘Old Tom Of Oxford ‘which is a morris tune and gives the song a very traditional feel. This is especially due to the rhythmic element of the song enhanced by Jim Molyneux's percussion playing. Again it is a David Gibb creation and is just a wonderful, short, catchy song. On a similar theme is ‘The Way Through the Woods’ which is a poem by Rudyard Kipling that also features on the album. David Gibb has written a new tune for the poem to be set to which brings out the beauty of Kipling’s words and matches so wonderfully. The song is about the woods going back to nature. The instrumentation on this song is just perfect – it contains wonderful clarinet playing by Oli Matthews which makes the song very affecting. This is a particular highlight on the album for me.
Each and every song tells a memorable story or has a memorable message, from a man who fought at the Battle of Waterloo to the redevelopment of Derby city. If I were to choose a favourite track from the album, it would have to be 'Lovely Molly', with moving vocals from David. It tells of young men going off to war leaving the women behind. It's one of those songs, that is sort of unexpected but makes you want to listen to it over and over. Each song has a distinct quality to it, with immaculate musicianship from both David and Elly. What I'm really saying, is that I can tell that this is going remain one of my favourite albums for many years to come.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

'Bare Foot Folk' - Ange Hardy

Ange Hardy is well known for being a brilliant songwriter and singer.  Her second album, ‘Bare Foot Folk’, is a collection of 14 beautifully crafted songs written by Ange.  All her songs contain interesting and engaging lyrics set to wonderfully fitting tunes, mostly accompanied by her delicate guitar playing. Although none of the songs are from traditional sources, many of them narrate tales and are set to tunes that could easily be mistaken for traditional. The aim of the CD, for me, is very clear – and that is to present stories simply but beautifully and not concentrating on the instrumentation but the tune and the words.  Her guitar playing is immaculate and very fitting for the album, with the vocal harmonies at times enhancing the messages that the songs convey.  Furthermore, Ange has a beautifully clear voice which is ideal for the story telling aspects of her songs as well as being incredibly pleasant to listen to.

One of my favourite songs on the album is ‘Crafty Father John’. Ange’s catchy tune gives the song a very traditional sound; however, her witty lyrics carry a very modern message about Facebook and inappropriate status updates. It sounds like one of those songs that you heard before, but it is completely original in words and in tune.  I particularly love the guitar accompaniment for this song, as it adds a strong rhythmic structure.

Another song in which Ange demonstrates exceptional song writing  is ‘White As Snow’. It is inspired by a scene in the film ‘Another Earth’ which is an incredibly strange fantasy  about a second planet Earth appearing in the sky. Anyway, in the song I think Ange has really captured the abstract, surreal mood of the film. The harmonies in this song are absolutely beautiful. It is sung unaccompanied which gives the song an incredibly icy, eerie feel that matches the lyrics and the story the song tells. 

‘It Can't Be So’ is a song about impossible love but uses many images from traditional songs. It is very clear that Ange Hardy enjoys these traditional images. I really like how Ange paints the scene at the beginning of each verse. The chorus for this song is particularly catchy, guaranteed to get you singing along.
Furthermore, Ange's impressive harmonies add texture to the tracks.  I have to say that I was amazed by the 10 part harmony during the chorus of the song ‘Forlorn Land’ which is extremely effective in transforming the song into a battle cry. Also, it enhances the idea that perhaps to be heard you need to be many voices which is sort of what the song is about. ‘The Storm Has Now Begun’ is a sea shanty with overlapping lyrics, making it really interesting to listen to. It has a very traditional feel due to the rhythmic bodhran drum accompaniment. 

One great aspect about the CD is how the songs link together. Sometimes the links are obvious,  (especially if you read the sleeve notes), such as ‘Away With You Lassie’, ‘The Old Maiden’ and ‘The Storm Has Now Begun’ which are about life and tragedy at sea as well as the people left behind. But other connections are more subtle like ‘Young Martha's Well’ and ‘Stop Your Crying Son’ which both have associations with parenthood – a natural subject for Ange, a mother herself. I think these links gives the album a sense of completeness, suggesting it should really be listened to in sequence rather than on 'shuffle'. It is certainly true to say that no song disappoints and I am fond of every single one!

Youtube video of White As Snow : 

YouTube video of The Storm Has Now begun:

Link to Ange Hardy's Website: