Tag Archives: daria kulesh

166. KADIA (with support CHARLIE LIMM + Open Floor) at LOUGHTON FOLK CLUB, Essex. Thursday 27th April 2017.

Kadia at LFC (Photo: PTMQ)

It’s always nice to get to see artists whose albums I’ve reviewed. So when I heard that Dorset-based Folk band Kadia were to play near to my home, at Loughton Folk Club, I was keen to get along to see them live.

Loughton Folk Club is held every Thursday in a pleasant upstairs room at The Loughton Club, a social centre in Station Road. (Check LFC’s website for details). It is run by Steve O’Donoghue (MoC for the night), and Carol Woodward, who are very welcoming (They had both recently come along to my Feature Night at Romford FC. See review #162). The club book a special guest every week, and have attracted some very well known artists. This particular night there was also a support set by singer/song-writer Charlie Limm. Floor spots are also usually available, and I was asked to do a couple of my songs too.

There were some very good Floor Spots; best of which I thought were Steve O’Donoghue singing his ‘Accident Of Birth’  – the second time I’d heard this in two days (See my previous review #165), but this time by the writer himself. And John Harris who sang and played a fantastic song about an Irish sailor (which I’m afraid I didn’t catch the title of, but I’m sure I’ve seen him play it somewhere before – RFC or Haverfolk perhaps?). I played two of my songs: ‘Nan’s Bread Pudd’n’ and ‘Mid-Life Crisis Blues’. Seemed to go down OK.

Charlie Limm (Photo: PTMQ)

Support Charlie Limm played two short but very good sets. Along with Emma Minihan , she is one half of a duet called Patchwork Skies, but tonight she was accompanied only by her roadie Sophie. Charlie, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar, played some charming songs; including two from the duet’s EP Go Outside: ‘Through The Dark’ and ‘Country Kind’. Other songs were: ‘At Your Side’; ‘Farewell Lullaby’ (sung acapella); ‘In This Time’ (which I particularly liked); ‘Forget-me-Not’ (her favourite flower, and a song that we were encouraged to join in with); and she finished with Richard Thompson’s classic ‘Beeswing’. Lovely songs and very effective. Sweetly sung too. The LFC audience were certainly appreciative. Maybe we’ll see Charlie play there again, with Emma too next time, perhaps? Later, before she left she gave me a copy of the Patchwork Skies’ EP Go Outside, which I enjoyed listening to on the way home and shall review on this site soon (see my following article #167).

Headliners Kadia also played two excellent sets. The trio consist of: Chris Bailey (guitar/vocals); Lee Cuff (cello/vocals); and David Hoyland (uke/mando/vocals). (For a review of their wonderful debut album East Of Alexandria, see my review #91). They are making quite a name for themselves on the Folk circuit, for their quality musicianship, their impressive song-writing, and their superb harmonies. I have recently reviewed their new EP of trad songs – The Outlandish Collection (see my review #158). They are currently working towards a new album of original material.

Steve O’Donoghue with Guthrie-esque guitar slogan! (Photo: PTMQ)

They played many of the original songs from their debut album, and all five songs from the EP; beginning with the acapella ‘The Keeper’. It was a magnificent display of the three part harmonies for which they are becoming well-known – therefore they set the bar high for themselves from the very start.

Earlier, I’d had a chat with them before the evening’s entertainment began. I’d been playing their debut album whilst driving to the gig, and I mentioned that I particularly enjoyed ‘The Beast Of Bodmin’, so they kindly incorporated it into their set for me; seguing it into the trad song ‘The Wraggle-Taggle Gypsies-O’. A faultless performance it was too. Thanks lads!

Included in their two sets were songs from the Alexandria album such as ‘Silver Linings’; ‘The Navigator’; and ‘Origin Of Fire’. From Outlandish: ‘Captain Ward’; the instrumental medley ‘Cricketers Set’; ‘Randy Dandy’ and the wonderful ‘Lady Isabel And The Elf Knight’. Other songs played were: ‘Your Side’; ‘Sounds Of Earth’; ‘Rose In April’; ‘Annabel Lee’;  and ‘Old Dun Cow’.

Throughout the show, individual musicianship; tightness; vocals; and harmonies were, to be quite honest, faultless and impressive to say the least. In fact, a perfect display of their collective talents, and I’d highly recommend attending one of their gigs if you haven’t already.

I very much enjoyed the evening at Loughton Folk Club and I plan to get there again soon for a Daria Kulesh gig, among others. Thanks to all performers and LFC personnel for a memorable evening. PTMQ.

 

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146. DARIA KULESH (+ Open Floor) at The FaB Club, The White Hart PH, Grays, Essex. Sunday 22nd January, 2017. (+ a few words about the venue).

(Photo: PTMQ)

(Photo: PTMQ)

Preamble.  When my friend, singer/song-writer Daria Kulesh told me she had some solo gigs booked here in Essex, I of course said that I’d try to get along to one or two. Her second album Long Lost Home will be officially released soon, so she is busy gigging her way around the Home Counties and further afield too. I have heard the new collection, and I have reviewed it recently (See my article #145).

The FaB Club is held in the White Hart PH, Grays, Essex – half an hour’s drive through the lanes from Quill HQ – although I must admit I’ve never visited the venue before. The acronym FaB stands for ‘Folk, Acoustic and Blues’ and it is held on most Sunday afternoons (Check their website for details). They host regular Open Floor sessions and occasionally book a special guest such as Daria. I arrived early and was welcomed by MoS Liz Montgomery; and soundman / guitarist Paul Ballantyne – who was busy setting up a fine new Bose sound system. I have met and seen him perform before, at Romford Folk Club (See my article #59). Garry Walker of RFC is also a regular at the FaB and he turned up as well. Daria and husband Julian arrived soon after myself. I haven’t seen them for a year (since she played Haverfolk with her band KARA. See my review #78), so it was lovely to see them both.

(Photo: PTMQ)

(Photo: PTMQ)

The gig (Part One).  The afternoon was split into two parts – each began with some Open Floor spots, followed by a half-set from Daria. To get the ball rolling, Paul Ballantyne played a couple of songs, followed by  a guitar-bass-banjo trio, Keith, Maureen and John, who played a couple of fine songs. I was up next, and borrowing Keith’s lovely Washburn acoustic, played a couple of my own songs: ‘Mid-Life Crisis Blues’ and ‘Nan’s Bread Pudd’n’. Thanks Keith!

Daria began her first set with a Cossack drinking song, to which we all joined in after she had taught us some Russian words! Good fun. Taking up her Shruti Box, she then played the haunting ‘Tamara’ from her new album Long Lost Home (See my previous review #145); followed by the Trad Irish song ‘Tell Me Ma’ on her bodhrán. Three more fine renditions of songs from the new album were then played on her guitar: ‘Safely Wed’; ‘The Moon And The Pilot’; and on the shruti, ‘Heart’s Delight’ – all with heart-felt preambles. And so ended the first, very eclectic, set to great applause.

The gig (Part Two).  After a short break, a few more floor spots restarted the afternoon’s entertainment. As is usual in Folk/Acoustic clubs, a great variety of styles were represented; and very enjoyable they were too. Daria returned then for her second set; and began with a Trad Scottish song; then, bodhrán in hand, she followed this with ‘Begone!’, a favourite song from her live repertoire. It is a true story about a witch hunt – but sung from the point of view of the mob. It is menacing and primal in its intensity.

(Photo: PTMQ)

Keith, Maureen and John (Photo: PTMQ)

Apart from her solo work and being a member of Kara, Daria is also involved with The Company Of Players, a ten-piece group of young Folk musicians. ‘Lady MacBeth’ is a track on their album, and will also appear on the new Kara album too. It is played on the shruti. I hadn’t heard it before; and found it to be very haunting. She followed with the beautiful ‘Gone’ from the new album. Then she sang ‘Hairdresser’ from Eternal Child, and dedicated it to me – perhaps I need a haircut? Thanks Daria. Snip, snip!

The main set finished with a tri-lingual (English/Russian/French) cover of ‘Those Were The Days My Friend’ with which we all joined in of course. Encore was demanded, and duly given in the form of ‘Distant Love’ from Long Lost Home.

Fin.  I very much enjoyed Daria’s performance – she improves every time I see her. She’ll be performing at Cecil Sharp House, Camden, on 23rd Feb for her official album launch – check her website for more info. Thanks to her, the FaB Club and all the regulars who performed to make it a very entertaining afternoon. PTMQ

145. DARIA KULESH “Long Lost Home” (2017). A pre-release review.

(Pic: Daria Kulesh)

(Pic: Daria Kulesh)

Its always nice receive new music from my friend Russian singer/song-writer Daria Kulesh – whether it be as part of the Folk Band Kara, of which she is a member, or in this case more of her remarkable solo work. I’d heard some of the new songs, as they have been part of her solo set for a while now (see my review #45), but I was keen to hear them all in their perfected studio-recorded form.

And so I gladly received Long Lost Home recently for review. I had been wondering how Daria could possibly follow up her marvellous debut album Eternal Child (see my review #35) with her second album; but whereas the debut was about her personal life-experiences, this new work is about the plight of her ancestors. It is essentially a twelve track self-penned concept album (I’ve always been partial to concept albums) – the theme in this case being songs inspired by stories from Daria’s ancestry in Ingushetia (a mountainous region in the south of Russia).

Every one of these beautiful songs has been lovingly teased from Daria’s very soul – and even from the very spirit of her forebears. Every one has a heart-felt story to tell; or a wrong to right. And they are delivered with a passion that only Daria can summon up. They are stories of family and local heroes – and enemies (Stalin comes in for some well-deserved derision). And I have learned a lot from them – musically and historically.

From the haunting opening song ‘Tamara’, we are transported to an exotic place – both geographically, musically and lyrically. The effect of this is quite intoxicating and intriguing, I found. All the songs in this collection are exceptional. I very much liked ‘Safely Wed’ and ‘The Hazel Tree’; but the song I particularly warmed to was ‘The Panther’. This is the true story of local heroine Tangieva, who defied Stalin for the sake of her people. Daria impressively tells of ‘The Panther’ in this song; haughtily singing ‘An Amazon doesn’t serve in an army of slaves’!

The CD comes in a card tri-fold sleeve, with disc fitted one side and lyric booklet on the other – all very well designed and presented, with striking photos of Daria’s ancestral homeland. The booklet has lyrics and of course (typically thoughtful of Daria), plenty of very useful background information on each of the tracks so that the listener can reap as much as possible from the songs.

The album will be officially launched on 23rd February 2017 at Cecil Sharp House, Camden, London, where Daria will be accompanied by several other fine musicians such as Jonny Dyer, and members of Kara too – who have contributed so well to the album. It will of course be available to buy at the gig, or from Daria’s website. PTMQ

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.

97. KELLY OLIVER “Bedlam” (Folkstock Records, 2016)

Bedlam (Pic: Kelly Oliver)

Bedlam (Pic: Kelly Oliver)

Recently I was contacted by Helen Meissner of Folkstock Arts Foundation, who wondered if I would like to review Kelly Oliver‘s latest album (her second), Bedlam; which was released back in March. Of course, I was keen to do so; and so she sent me a promo copy CD; along with some fact-sheets.

I first became aware of Kelly and her music a few months ago, when Daria Kulesh suggested that I go on line and see a gig that both ladies were to play at The Convent, Gloucestershire. Although I experienced a few problems with the streaming, I was nevertheless very impressed by Kelly’s songs.

Bedlam is a ten-track album of original works –  either written solely by Kelly; or co-written with others. It has already received some great reviews, to which I can add little except to say that it certainly is a remarkable album. Kelly has crafted a fine collection of well thought-out songs with inspired lyrics, that tend to grab your attention from the start. She has interesting things to say; and I found that I wanted to hear them. I personally had this playing in my car on repeat for a few days – that’s a good sign! The songs feel traditional, yet fresh and original at the same time. There is good use of alternative guitar tunings which I like because it adds a uniqueness (and sometimes a quirkiness) to the overall sound of the songs. Her voice – and the accent with which she sings – is a pleasure to hear; and entirely suits her music.

I’ve found it almost impossible to pick a few favourites from this collection because each song is equally fantastic. But if I’m pushed I’d say the title track; plus ‘Miles To Tralee’ and the Folk-Rock finishing number ‘Rio’ (which reminds me a little of Kirsty MacColl). Its a good’n to end the album on – and no doubt would be a rousing finale to a live show too. But all the songs are very good indeed.

The CD that I received was a promo copy, so I cannot unfortunately comment on the sleeve / case that it would normally be sold in. It is also apparently available in 12″ vinyl, I’m glad to say. Samples of the songs may be heard via the Folkstock Records website. Recommended. PTMQ

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/