Tag Archives: ange hardy

135. ANGE HARDY’s Christmas singles.

(Pic: A.Hardy)

(Pic: A.Hardy)

Ange Hardy releasing an annual seasonal single has become something of a Christmas tradition in itself over the last three years; and I always look forward to receiving the latest one. Her prolific pen can always be relied upon to come up with a couple of new songs that sound both familiar, yet fresh at the same time – and always of high quality.

This year’s offering (2016) is a two-track single entitled ‘The Quantock Carol’. It is a song written whilst contemplating the uncertainty of the modern world, and hoping that the future promises the peace that she feels when viewing the Quantock Hills from her home. It is backed by the ‘B-side’ (if that’s the right term to use these days!), ‘Mary’s Robin’, which is based on a Gaelic legend of how the little bird came by its red breast. Both are purely unaccompanied vocal pieces and sung with Ange’s characteristically crystal-clear voice and delightful multi-layered harmony arrangements, skillfully woven into a whole.

(Pic: A.Hardy)

(Pic: A.Hardy)

The CD came in a card slip case with a simple, yet charming design, and lyrics printed on the reverse. Typical of Ange – and something I do like on any CD case – she has written a paragraph to explain each song. Also typical of the lady, it arrived in a specially printed envelope, which also contained a personalised Christmas card matching the single’s cover.

2015’s single was a three-track EP featuring the A-Side ‘When Christmas Day Is Near’. It is a song that Ange tells us she tried… ‘to write a song that captures the joy, hope and unity of Christmas’. It is backed up by the excellent ‘William Frend’ (a track taken from her album Esteesee – see my review #72); and ‘Solidarity’, a song ‘written the day after the 2015 Paris attacks at the Bataclan, with heavy heart and hopeful soul’ she says.

(Pic: A.Hardy)

(Pic: A.Hardy)

This too arrived with a Christmas greetings card matching the CD slip-case, contained in a specially printed envelope. And again had useful explanations.

2014’s offering was another EP: ‘The Little Holly Tree’; backed by ‘The Wanting Wife’ (taken from her album The Lament Of The Black Sheep – see my review #32); and the traditional and beautiful 12th Century Irish hymn ‘The Wexford Carol’.

The singles (and in fact all of Ange’s back catalogue of work) are available from her website. Samples of her songs can be heard there too. Merry Christmas to you. PTMQ

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123. ANGE HARDY & LUKAS DRINKWATER “Findings” (Story Records, 2016). A pre-release review.

The 'Findings' package. (Pic: Ange Hardy)

The ‘Findings’ package. (Pic: Ange Hardy)

I was very pleased to receive a pre-release CD copy of the new album from prolific singer / song-writer Ange Hardy recently – this time working in full collaboration with the renown Lukas Drinkwater. Of course, I was keen to hear and review it….

The Findings CD came as part of a fine souvenir package. (As did her last album Esteesee – see my review #72). Apart from the disc itself in a deluxe sleeve (on which more anon), it included a lovely personal letter; a set of drinks mats (one representing each of Ange’s previous albums); fact sheets; and even a humbug in matching colours! And once again, all contained within a dedicated jiffy bag.

Both Ange and Lukas are well known to my regular readers; both quite remarkable multi-instrumentalists, song-writers and performers; and they have worked together before. Ange plays guitars, whistle, harp, and lead and backing vocals. Lukas plays guitars, double bass, and vocals. Some other fine musicians were drafted in as necessary too.

‘Findings’ we are told on the sleeve, are ‘The parts used to join jewellery components together to form a completed article’. I did not know that; but I can see its appropriate use to describe this album, as the theme throughout is precious family connections. It is a collection of 14 songs – 11 penned by Ange and Lukas; and three traditional tunes reworked by the duo. As I put the disc into the player, I was expecting Ange’s characteristically well-crafted, interesting songs; with delightful multi-layered vocal melodies sung in beautifully clear enunciation. I wasn’t disappointed, as I got exactly that… if anything, in some ways the album is better than even her last two albums. (See my reviews #32 and #72) So the input of Mr.Drinkwater on this opus has perhaps improved the already high standards of her earlier work – it has certainly modified it. Yet I’m glad to report that it retains a large measure of Ange’s typical styles and sounds which I love.

The album opens with the superbly woven multi-vocal harmony of ‘The Call’ – the first part of  a segued tripartite track inspired by the Somerset town of Watchet. Those remarkable vocal harmonies continue with ‘The Pleading Sister’; and this is followed by the beautifully arranged trad song ‘The Trees They Do Grow High’ (one of my favourites in the collection).

We are given a good variety of folksong as the collection unfolds. With subject matter ranging from the sea to the forests; from birth to death; and from traditional to contemporary; lyrically these songs are quite remarkable and fascinating to read. Other highlights for me were: ‘The Widow’ with its wonderfully woven guitar/harp parts; the excellent lyric and vocal arrangements in the Irish themed ”My Grandfathers / Bearded Ted’; and the poignant ‘Invisible Child’. All in all, a delightful and thought-provoking collection of songs from Ange and Lukas. It is a well recorded album too – sound quality is superb, and a joy to listen to.

The sleeve is a variant of the card gate-fold type with the CD press-fitted on the right, and the booklet fitted left. The book is a 20-page high quality, well-designed effort.  It contains all credits and thanks; as well as lyrics and much interesting information on the songs, including quotes from Ange and Lukas, that enhance the enjoyment and understanding of the opus. I expected as much from Ange. There are interesting rural photos printed too. Finally a unique (as far as I’m aware) game sticker is included on the rear of the sleeve; an explanation of which is too lengthy to include here…you’ll just have to buy the album! You won’t be disappointed in any respect anyway. Can’t fault it.

Finally, Findings is officially released on 14th September 2016, during a live session on BBC Radio 2’s Folk Show, which I unfortunately cannot attend, but hope to tune in to. PTMQ

Ange’s website

Lukas’ website

Further articles of mine that either feature or mention Ange and/or Lukas are:

#28. Oxjam Music Festival, November 2014 (Ange and Lukas)

#32. A review of Ange’s album The Lament Of The Black Sheep (Ange and Lukas)

#60. A review of Greg Hancock’s EP Comfortable Hatred (Lukas)

#72. A review of Ange’s album Esteesee (Ange and Lukas)

109. ROD STANDEN “Poetic Force: Poetry In Emotion” (2016)

Poetic Force (Pic; Rod Standen)

Poetic Force (Pic; Rod Standen)

I bumped into Rod Standen at a gig at Romford Folk Club a short while ago (see my review #99) He played ‘Voices Of The Night’, (a track from his album Poetic Force: Poetry In Emotion) during the Open Floor session at the club before the headline act. It was an interesting piece. I had a chat with him afterwards and he kindly gave me a CD copy of the album for review.

Poetic Force: Poetry In Emotion is a concept album. There are seven tracks in all. Lyrically each is a famous poem of the Romantic genre put to Rod’s music.  Blake; Wordsworth; Gregory Smith; John Clare; and William Henley’s work are all represented; and there are two poems from Longfellow. Talking to Rod after that gig, he was enthusing about the power of verse to inspire his music. I can see that myself, because at the age of about fifteen I remember naively trying to set the words of Tennyson’s ‘Charge Of The Light Brigade’ to my own Rock music – and with only a limited knowledge of the guitar at the time, had to give up. (Thank God I have never been tempted to reawaken that project!) But the concept has long been in my head; so I warmed to Rod’s idea immediately. (Something slightly overlapping this work is Ange Hardy‘s recent concept album on the life and works of Coleridge: Esteesee – see my review #72).

Rod has produced a very interesting album. It is clear, I think, that the music is merely a vehicle for the verse – and fair enough too. These classic poems need no appraisal from me – and nor am I qualified to do so. Musically it is good, although the accusation of ‘saminess’ may be levelled at the collection by some. Each track has a busy acoustic guitar part which is fine but a little repetitive (although I must emphasise, played by Rod very well indeed); and there is little variation in vocal melody from track to track. Even so, I found it very pleasant to listen to as I worked at home recently – and it is for listening to after all, due to the use of the classic verse.

Rod seems to have done almost everything himself on this project: from writing the music and recording the songs; to designing the sleeve; writing the notes on the excellent enclosed leaflet – and even personally sticking the label on the CD. He told me that he recorded the whole album whilst his wife was on a shopping trip one day! This is a unique collection, and Rod is to be highly commended for it – and at only a fiver, it is real value for money! I’d say buy it if you have an appreciation of the Romantic poets; or even if you just like something a bit different. PTMQ.

Rod will be playing a live session at Romford’s TIME FM 107.5 (Karen Lennon Show); this Saturday, 25th June at 11AM. Worth having a listen, I think.

The CD is available from Rod’s Ebay page

Or, for those local to Romford,  from Fairkytes Arts Centre, Hornchurch Essex

Contact Rod …  rodstanden62@gmail.com

107. KARA’s New album “Some Other Shore” (2016). A pre-release review

(Pic: KARA)

(Pic: KARA)

Its always something of a dilemma for artists deciding which direction to take for their second album (especially if like Folk band Kara, the first album had received so much favourable appraisal). Do you go for what you know and deliver more of the same? Or branch out into pastures new and risk disappointing your fan-base? In Kara’s case (by their own admission, ‘a quirky quartet’) perhaps this dilemma was not so pronounced, as their music is so diverse and unique (and ‘quirky’ of course) that ‘more of the same’ would simultaneously amount to ‘pastures new’ anyway!

Bearing that in mind then, there could be no possibility whatsoever of predicting what new music the band could have come up with for this, their second collection: Some Other Shore. I made a brief mention and recommendation of Kara’s first album Waters So Deep during a review of Daria Kulesh‘s solo album Eternal Child last year (see my review #35). That first album by the band was an impressive opus that held my attention to a remarkable degree, as I’d heard nothing quite like it before – and I feel that I must emphatically say that again for this new offering too!

Kara currently consist of Daria Kulesh (Vocals/guitar/bodhran); Kate Rouse (Hammered Dulcimer); Ben Honey (Guitar); and new boy Phil Underwood (of The Creole Brothers, on Melodeon). In addition, the highly rated Lukas Drinkwater was drafted in for Double Bass; with James Delarre (Fiddle); and Jason Emberton (‘Additional instrumentation’) used as necessary. Jason was also the album’s producer – on which he has done a great job.

New this album certainly is; but having said that, it is still unmistakably Kara – for it retains that celebrated, quirky, Russian-English Folk fusion that makes it unique. The unusual combination of Hammered Dulcimer and Melodeon give a distinctive depth and flavour to the band’s sound – yet neither unduly dominate the overall sound of the songs. Add to that the beautiful vocals of Daria and the skillful guitar work of Ben, and a winning combination is manifest.

It is a twelve-track work of both original songs skillfully penned by the various band members; and of reworked traditional English and Russian Folk songs. They are songs of romance and escapism, as well as sometimes covering thought-provoking contemporary themes. As I expected, a wide variety of style; subject; and emotion is represented – and executed superbly. It is a wonderfully crafted album that has been well-thought out – and works so well. I was privileged to hear a few of these new songs at a Kara gig last October (see my review #78). They were great songs to hear live; and have been thoughtfully recorded in the studio too. My personal favourite tracks from the album are: the dark and demonic opening number ‘Tamara’s Wedding’; and the beautifully haunting – and slightly disturbing – ‘Goodbye and Forgive Me’.

At this current point in time, I have only heard the album as a download, so I cannot comment too much on the CD sleeve – although I have seen it, and it does look very good; with artwork by Daria and Ben. It seems to include all lyrics and an explanation of each song; which is something I love to see among the sleeve notes.

I think whether you are a Kara fan; a Folk aficionado; or a generally open-minded music lover, you will be very impressed indeed by Some Other Shore, as I was; so its a big thumbs up from The Quill! The album will be available from 1st June on the band’s album launch tour. PTMQ

Visit Kara’s website for tour dates etc.

For a review of Kara‘s gig at Haverfolk in October 2015; see my review #78.

For a review of Daria Kulesh‘s solo gig at Lost Horizons Folk Club in April 2015; see my review # 45.

For a review of Daria Kulesh‘s debut solo album Eternal Child, see my review #35.

For a brief mention of Kate Rouse‘s work on Ange Hardy‘s album Esteesee see my review #72.

78. KARA at HAVERFOLK in “The White Horse” PH, Chadwell Heath, Essex. Wednesday, 14th October, 2015. + A few words about the venue; the club; and their Open Floor.

Kara at HaverFolk (Photo: PTMQ)

Kara at HaverFolk (Photo: PTMQ)

Preamble:  I was very pleased to be invited to this gig by Kara‘s Russian singer, my friend Daria Kulesh, back in April when I saw one of her first solo performances, at Lost Horizons Folk Club in East London (See my review #45). I had previously reviewed her excellent debut album Eternal Child; during which I also recommended her band Kara’s seminal work, Waters So Deep (See my review #35). These are both wonderful, unique, and charmingly quirky albums. And a second helping from both Daria and Kara are eagerly awaited! But I hadn’t seen Daria perform with Kara, so I was keen to see her with the band.

The Venue:  was  the 400 year old White Horse PH, in High Road, Chadwell Heath, Essex. The club uses the pub’s ‘Stables Function Suite’ at the rear of the premises, which is accessible from the car park (which apparently is the only pub in Britain to have its own set of traffic lights!) The pub itself is done up quite nicely; but the Landlord maybe could look into a bit of redecoration in the function room. It serves its purpose well enough though. It is a long slender room decorated in a mock Tudor style. At one end is the performance area; and at the other there is a bar (but which was unmanned and necessitated a trek to the main pub for drinks).

Daria sings (Photo: PTMQ)

Daria sings (Photo: PTMQ)

HaverFolk  is a nice little Folk / acoustic club, run by Chairman Peter Walters, and assisted by John Foxen; and by Jill and Margaret. It is known as ‘The Feelgood Folk Club’; and I was certainly made to feel very welcome by everyone I met. The club meets weekly (on Wednesdays, 8 – 11PM) for an Open Session; and about once a month they have a special guest booked. They also get involved in Folk festivals etc.

Kara   means ‘Black’ in Turkish; and ‘Punishment’ in Russian; and the band describe themselves as playing ‘…spirited acoustic Folk with a Russian twist’. But despite Daria’s Russian origins, she has been living in the UK for some years, and the band are based in Hertfordshire. It is a four-piece unit consisting of Daria herself (Vocals, and Bodhrán); Kate Rouse (on Hammered Dulcimer); Gary Holbrook (on Accordion); and Ben Honey (acoustic guitar). From their initials, Daria cheekily refers to them as the KGB! With such an unusual group of instruments, Kara are able to produce some very unique music indeed.

Foxen performing ' ' (Photo: PTMQ)

Foxen performing ‘Stenka Razin’ (Photo: PTMQ)

The band arrived at about the same time as us; and Daria greeted us warmly; and introduced me to the others. Through their work on the Waters So Deep album, I was familiar with them – especially Kate, who also features on Ange Hardy‘s recent remarkable album Esteesee (See my review #72). It was nice to meet them in person though. Kate gave me a brief explanation and demonstration of her Dulcimer, which I found fascinating to hear and see played.

Open Floor There was no support act for Kara – there being enough talent among the club members themselves to fulfil that role; so it is usual (as it is in many Folk clubs) for there to be an ‘Open Floor’ spot where anyone can perform a song or two before the guest plays their set. So on this occasion, several of the regulars would perform one song each.

Yours truly doing Mike Batt's 'Soldier's Song' (Photo By Daria)

Yours truly doing Mike Batt’s ‘Soldier’s Song’ (Photo By Daria)

Of course, there were a variety of styles and talents present which made for an interesting warm-up. Master of Ceremonies John Foxen started proceedings by pulling a Balalaika out of its bag, which he said had been in his loft for years, and had been fetched down in honour of the evening’s special guest! He was joined by Mab, and they played a fun version of the Russian Folk song ‘Stenka Razin’ with the chorus somehow transliterated from ‘Volga Volga’ to ‘Vodka Vodka’!

The best of the other floor spots were, in my opinion; by Ray Spillman who gave us a very good cover of Ralph McTell’s ‘From Clare To Here’ on his lovely Faith acoustic; and by Dave Wilson who covered ‘Silver Raven’ by Gene Clark of The Byrds. But all of the other Floor Spots – from Jane, Tony, Johnny and Clive – were good too.

Volga Boatmen - Peter and John (Photo: PTMQ)

Volga Boatmen – Peter and John (Photo: PTMQ)

But just when we thought the warm ups were over, I was challenged by MoC John, to come up and do a number! Well I hadn’t planned to do so, but not wishing to seem churlish, by writing a review of others without performing myself, I willingly rose to the occasion! I borrowed Ray’s Faith acoustic; and the first Folky song that popped into my head was Mike Batt’s ‘Soldier’s Song’ – or at least, my rendition of it – replete with myriad mistakes! Thinking about it afterwards, I don’t think I’ve played in public for almost a year. I got some applause but I offer no critique!

Kara’s First Set  Then it was time for the headliners, Kara. After an interesting spoken introduction from Daria, during which she described the band’s eclectic music as ‘..a crazy cocktail’; they began with the beautiful ‘Rusalka’ – which is based on a Pushkin poem.  I love this song; and this performance was as perfect as the album version – and a perfect intro to Kara’s music, with the ‘KGB’ each demonstrating their respective skills right from the start, and Daria’s beautiful voice in fine form.

'The Elderley Brothers' - Dave, Ray and Johnnie (Photo: PTMQ)

‘The Elderley Brothers’ – Dave, Ray and Johnnie (Photo: PTMQ)

If we needed more proof of this, we received it with the remarkably named instrumental ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’; and for this, Daria took up her Bodhrán. ‘Seaview’, a chirpy song that I didn’t know, inspired by the Isle Of Wight was next. We were then invited ‘…to venture into uncharted territory – the mysterious domain of the Jazz Dulcimer’! This is a song about powerful City men: ‘The Dance Of Devilry’.

From their album the band then gave us the lovely ‘Mermaid’s Lullaby’, introduced by Kate. Sung in Russian by Daria; and with lovely reverb’ed guitar from Ben, subtle accordion from Gary, and again, the ethereal sound of Kate’s Dulcimer; it was altogether a spell-binding rendition. Another IoW inspired song written by Ben, the charming ‘Union Street’, was played next. And again, as perfect as the recorded version.

Another Russian-sung song ‘Vengerka’ with a very Slavic vibe about it was performed next. Quite a remarkable song, this. Finally the first set finished with the Appalachian version of ‘Scarborough Fair’, called ‘Lovers’ Tasks’, which named different herbs to the traditional English song; and incorporated a Kate composed piece, ‘Black Tea Waltz’. The band then retired for a well-earned break.

The 'Maid with a Dulcimer' - Kate Rouse (Photo: PTMQ)

‘A damsel with a Dulcimer’ – Kate Rouse (Photo: PTMQ)

‘The Elderly Brothers’ and more on a Russian theme:  When proceedings were ready to resume, we were introduced to the ad hoc three-piece guitar band, ‘The Elderley Brothers’ – Dave, Ray, and Johnnie. They gave a fun performance of ‘Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms’. Club Chairman Peter was then joined by John and his Balalaika for ‘The Song Of The Volga Boatmen’ – sung in Russian – but Daria was the only one present who could accurately judge the performance!

Kara’s Second Set  began with a ‘…depressing Russian song’ – ‘Life Is Sweet me Lads’ – for which Daria taught us a few Russian words so that we could sing along. It wasn’t actually that depressing – rather, it was a bit of fun singing along. Nice vocal harmonies from Kate on this one. From the album, the Ben Honey written ‘Hunter’s Moon’ followed. It is his idyllic view of the countryside. It is another song that I’m familiar with; and again it was a fine rendition. And this was followed by another Ben-penned song: ‘Carousel Waltz’. It was a new one on me, and I quite liked it.

The rather unusual ‘Stormteller’ was next. Its a lively number that I hadn’t previously heard. Then ‘Made Of Light’ was sung by Daria who was clearly moved whilst singing the poignant lyric. It is about the loss of a personal friend. Delving into the album once more, the band played ‘In Lille’ – about a young lady who is mistaken for a Lady Of The Night! Gary’s accordion was highly appropriate for this very Gallic sounding song. ‘The Wedding Guest’ was played next. It is based on a banned poem by Russian Romantic poet Lermontov. It is another that is very Slavic in feel. Finally from the album again, Daria’s song ‘In Lunenburg’ (which is in Canada) ‘…where you can actually make a living there from busking’. It is a song with a very lively ending which had the audience clapping along. It was a good finishing number – and a great show altogether.

Gary and Ben (Photo: PTMQ)

Gary and Ben (Photo: PTMQ)

Musicianship:  All the songs of Daria’s two-part set had indeed been ‘a crazy cocktail’. I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a wide variety of style and genres performed in one night! And all performed with such impressive musicianship. It was a thoroughly entertaining show from the band. It was a mix of their old and new material, with a few trad numbers too. There looks to be a lot of songs practiced and ready for the next album, that’s for sure.

Daria with bodhran (Photo: PTMQ)

Daria with bodhran (Photo: PTMQ)

Daria herself was impressive as usual, not only for her beautiful voice, but as a front-woman for the whole band; having a distinctive hair do, and wearing a striking red dress. She gave an interesting spoken explanation to each song – something that I always think is a necessity. And unlike her solo performances she was largely without personal instrumentation; which meant she was free to make expressive hand gestures whilst singing. She was animated throughout; and was obviously enjoying the night; and this adds to the visual effect of the performance. Her confidence seems to have improved no end too, compared to when I saw her before – although on that occasion she was solo, of course.

Kate was impressive too – mostly for her command of the dulcimer; but her vocal harmonies were good too. She was also interesting when she explained some songs as well. Ben’s acoustic guitar playing was obviously highly practiced and he was amusing when speaking of the fine songs that he’d written. Gary’s accordion playing was subtle and excellent. The instrument has the potential to dominate; but his playing enhanced the overall sound of the band to a high degree; making it unique.

Do Svidaniya!   The gig finished, it was time for congratulations and goodbyes. I had a little chat with the members of the band and some of the regulars; promising to return as soon as possible. This is quite likely. A very enjoyable evening indeed. If you ever get a chance to see Kara’s, or indeed, Daria’s solo gigs – I can recommend both. PTMQ

72. ANGE HARDY “Esteesee” (2015)

Esteesee CD cover (Pic: Ange Hardy)

Esteesee CD cover (Pic: Ange Hardy)

I first met Ange Hardy at Exeter Oxjam last year (see my review #28), where she gave me a copy of her then current album, The Lament Of The Black Sheep to review (see entry #32). That was a fine album indeed (as I said at the time); so I was pleased when she kindly sent me a copy of her latest album Esteesee (her fourth) for review.

Esteesee is a concept album (Ange refers to it as a ‘project album’); ie, one in which all the tracks follow a chosen theme. I’ve been rather partial to concept albums since their heyday back in the ’70s. (Showing my age here!) This collection is based on the life and work of the noted English Romantic poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  The title Esteesee is a phonetic neologism apparently coined by Coleridge himself; and based on his initials, STC. I do not have a great deal of knowledge about Coleridge, but I’ve long been familiar with some of his more famous poems – The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, for example; and I’ve always enjoyed them. I was therefore very keen to hear Ange’s interpretation of the great writer’s life and work.

The CD arrived as part of a charming and remarkable promo package, which consisted of: the CD itself, in a deluxe, embossed card, gate-fold cover, and including a large booklet with much useful information about the songs, as well as the lyrics. Also within the package was one of Ange’s hand-made quills (very appropriate for myself, I think!); a bookmark; a blank greetings card; factsheets; and one of Ange’s new calling cards – all wrapped in a specially designed jiffy bag! All this must have cost a pretty penny, and there is no doubt that Ange is going for a high profile promotion (with support from Arts Council England); but its the songs that she has written that are ultimately going to make this album a great one.

Esteesee promo package (Photo: PTMQ)

Esteesee promo package (Photo: PTMQ)

It is a collection of fourteen original songs; all apparently penned in January this year! I knew her to be an incredibly prolific and inspired writer, but 14 songs in one month is quite astounding – especially as the quality of her work does not diminish with its quantity! Far from it; as in my opinion, this album outshines even the wonderful Black Sheep album. It is, in short, a magnum opus in every respect! The difference between this work and her earlier albums, is that whereas the previous recordings were very personal, this one shows her capable of empathising with; and interpreting; another’s mind: ie, Coleridge’s.

Listening to the album, it is unmistakably ‘Ange’ in style, yet explores fresh musical pastures too. Her distinctive trade-marks of mature song construction; thoughtful lyrics; beautifully clear singing and wonderful vocal harmonies, are all there to hear and enjoy as usual. But with these strengths, she has created a masterpiece of interwoven textures throughout the album that demands listening to it as a single work of art, rather than as a collection of individual songs.

Having said that, there are in my opinion, some points that stand out, even when considered amongst the high quality of the album in general. Certain songs I like very much indeed: ‘William Frend’; ‘George’; and the title track ‘Esteesee’. Also I like the various narrated parts throughout the work (ever a useful tool for those making a concept album!)  But my personal highlight of all is the spoken poem ‘Kubla Khan’. Ange, on guitar,  is joined in this remarkable rendition by the reader, Tamsin Rosewell; and the ‘…damsel with a dulcimer’ Kate Rouse (whose impressive work I know from her association with Daria Kulesh and Kara).

The album was recorded at Beehive Studios; and there were twelve notable session musicians employed by Ange – herself, an accomplished multi-instrumentalist – in the making of this album (too many for me to name here; but I’d refer the reader to the album sleeve notes for details).

In listening to this album, I have not only experienced some wonderful songs; but in so doing I have also learnt a lot about Coleridge too. This is yet another brilliant Folk album that this year has produced. I’m still awaiting a couple of others, but not much will surpass this collection, I’d say; and I recommend it highly – I’d say its a must! PTMQ

The album is released today (24th September); and Ange will be taking it on tour ‘Along The Coleridge Way’, from Nether Stowey to Lynmouth, in October. See her website for details…

   http://www.angehardy.com/

60. GREG HANCOCK “Comfortable Hatred” EP (2015)

Comfortable Hatred (Photo; Greg Hancock)

Comfortable Hatred, Greg Hancock

I first became aware of singer / song-writer Greg Hancock at Exeter Oxjam last November, which I had been invited to by my good friends in Devonbird; and where I met so many excellent musicians, and some other interesting people too (see my Blog entry #28). Several album reviews on this Blog came about as the result of direct or indirect contacts I made that day: See my reviews of Ange Hardy (Blog #32);  Emily Howard (Blog #37); and Daria Kulesh (Blog #35).  This EP review is yet another example of a spin-off from that one gig. All in all it was a very good event to attend for many reasons.

Greg was one of those involved in the organisation of the gig; and played a fine set with his quartet too. His set that day included two of the songs in this new collection. Two members of the band have worked on the EP with him: Jo Hooper (Cello); and Lukas Drinkwater (Double Bass). Greg of course handles acoustic guitar and vocals.

Comfortable Hatred is a collection of five original songs penned by the man himself. It is subtitled ‘Stories, portraits and observations of life’s unpredictability’ – and I think that is fair comment. They are songs that are very strong lyrically; and in terms of subject matter, undoubtedly unique. Three of the five have something to do with old ladies. I’d refer the reader to the link below which has the lyric for each song, in order to see for yourself the depth and strength of these words. There are other snippets of information there too; And as my regular readers will know, I like a bit of background info to add to the listening experience.

First up is ‘Old Lady’ which I first enjoyed at the Oxjam gig. It is apparently inspired by an interview with the legendary Joni Mitchell. It is obvious that Greg is fascinated by Joni in the interview – if not generally. Musically it has a Jazzy, plucky rhythm guitar part that’s difficult to prevent the mind rolling with, even when the song is finished! A good start.

‘Buckles And Buttons’ is a thoughtful meancholy song in three verses. ‘The lover; the family man; the soldier. Three male archetypes that don’t really stand up to a close look’, Greg tells us. Jo’s cello adds a depth to this song that enhances the mental anguish that these three characters are experiencing. Very insightful observations on male stereotypes.

Lyrically ‘Three Conversations’ is constructed in a similar way to ‘Buckles…’; having three verses, each dealing with a sub-section that come together to create the main theme. Each tells of a bizarre verbal exchange – presumably had, or heard by Greg himself; and each leaving him nonplussed! Musically it is more like ‘Old Lady’; although with a more melancholy ambience.

The title track is based on an observation of the wierdly workable relationship between two elderly ladies – Grace and Margaret – which is paradoxically both antagonistic and symbiotic (can’t live with her; can’t live without her, type of thing). Its quite amusing too. The guitar on this track is very nice indeed.

Finally ‘The Baby’s Head’ ends the collection. This is another of the songs I first heard at the Oxjam gig. Greg wrote this after reading a story about a young family trying to escape their plight in Syria. It is a poignant tale; but one with a happy ending.

The EP was recorded at Rapunzel Recording Studios in Seaton, Devon.  The quirky (perhaps slightly disturbing) cover illustration is by Julia Hamilton, and is entitled ‘Grace And Margaret’ after the two characters in the title track. I cannot comment on the CD case / sleeve because I’ve only worked from a download.

I like Comfortable Hatred  – mostly for its excellent thought-provoking lyrics; although I also love the guitar on ‘Old Lady’ and the title track. Also Greg’s vocals are good; and he, Jo and Lukas have  generally done a very fine job of arranging the music between them. Lyrically, its easily the best collection I’ve heard this year, and is unlikely to be supplanted. If you’re into thoughtful songs, then I’d recommend this EP – well worth £4 for a download!  PTMQ

Here is a link to Greg’s website… http://www.greghancockmusic.com/

Here is a link to Bandcamp where you may listen to, or download the songs; and read the lyrics..

http://greghancock.bandcamp.com/album/comfortable-hatred