Tag Archives: daria kulesh

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

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45. DARIA KULESH at the LOST HORIZONS FOLK AND ACOUSTIC CLUB, at the BIRKBECK TAVERN, East London. Friday, 17th April, 2015.

DARIA KULESH - (Photo: PTMQ)

DARIA KULESH at Lost Horizons Folk And Acoustic Club  (Photo: PTMQ)

My readers must please excuse me for being totally ignorant of the fact that there is a thriving folk club in Leyton, East London. It was only when my friend  Daria Kulesh invited me along to her gig at this venue that I became aware of it all. (My  review of Daria’s excellent album Eternal Child is on this blog #35). I had to rearrange a few things to get to the gig; but I particularly wanted to see her set; and to find out all about the club too. We arrived early enough for a nice chat with Daria and her husband. She told us that she planned to perform some new material that she has been writing for her next solo album – that is certainly something to look forward to. She is also, of course, a member of the Folk group Kara, whose album Waters So Deep I can also highly recommend.

The Lost Horizons Folk And Acoustic Club is an attractive looking venue, held on the third Friday of every month upstairs at the Birkbeck Tavern in Langthorne Road, Leyton. It has been run by partners Paul Knight and Trish  O’Hara since December 2010The club apparently developed from camp-fire singing, and putting the World to rights at festivals; and I must say it does have that political vibe about it. Of course, English, Irish and American Folk music have for centuries, often had a strong vein of political inspiration at their core; and I must say, this tradition is alive and well at Lost Horizons.  Paul and Trish  made us very welcome, and filled us in on what they are trying to achieve at the club.  The format of their evenings at the venue, is to show-case two special guests; along with two of their regular singer-songwriter house artists; followed by an Open Mic session.  They apparently have around half a dozen of these young regulars who take it in turns to perform. A promising selection of artists is therefore likely at every meeting.

Soon it was time for the show to begin. First up was a young singer-songwriter called Bob Munton. Playing a ukulele, he began with a Dylan cover: ‘Don’t Think Twice’. He then played some of his own work, based on his World observations. ‘Address Unknown’ (Palestinian themes); ‘Waterhole’ (a song full of ‘metaphors and clichés’); ‘Epiphany’ (about housing issues); and ‘Apathy’ (on political nonchalance). Bob gave a good explanatory preamble to each song; and I thought they were lyrically strong and interesting.

Next on the bill was another regular at the club: Will O’Donaghue. His songs seemed to be inspired by personal experiences and observations: ‘Chalice’; ‘Cold Wind In Your Hair’; ‘Broken Glass’ (a love song); ‘Goodbye’s The Only Thing To Say’; ‘Little Boxes’ (about his late mother); and ‘Heart Goes Black’. (Apologies to Will if I’ve got any of these titles wrong!) Will’s songs are simple but effective in construction, and confidently played. Again, lyrically strong and very personal. Also he has a good rapport with the audience to whom he was clearly well known.

Daria - The Eternal Child! (Photo: PTMQ)

Daria – created a ‘folk wonderland’ at Lost Horizons! (Photo: PTMQ)

After a ten minute break, Daria was on. She began by confidently singing the traditional Celtic song ‘She Moved Through The Fair’, unaccompanied. Right from the start, her beautiful voice and faultless rendition of the old folksong had everyone spell-bound. She continued with a song from her album Eternal Child, ‘Fake Wonderland’. Its a song about how ‘…money doesn’t buy happiness’. I know Daria wasn’t too happy about her performance of this song, but she needn’t have worried; I thought it was fine.

Again from Eternal Child, she gave us her ‘Butterflies’, which she wrote as a charity song. Then, exchanging her guitar for a bodhrán, she did ‘Begone!’ – a true story about a witch trial, written from the point of view of the bigoted mob. Next was a fine cover of ‘The Hanging Tree’ from the film Hunger Games which she  sang accompanying  herself with a Shruti Box.

Back with a guitar, she then played the gentle ‘Right Here’ from Eternal Child. This is a lovely song – one of two derived from an earlier work that she said ‘is too personal’ to perform in its original state. It has simple chords but is beautifully arpeggiated and was beautifully sung. A new one entitled ‘Bide, Lady, Bide’ which is influenced by the Dostoevski novel The Idiot was next. We were told that this may be the only time that we’d hear it in its ‘raw state’, as it should be performed by her band Kara. Her final song was ‘The Moon And The Pilot’. This is a very personal song influenced by the plight of her Caucasian ancestors at the hands of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Throughout her set, Daria gave illuminating preambles to every song. I am always in favour of this as it adds to the listening experience. At all times both her spoken and singing voice was clear and satisfying. In fact every aspect of the whole set was very enjoyable, and I’m glad I was able to get to the gig. I’d recommend seeing Daria if you get a chance; and I’m looking forward to seeing her with Kara later this year at Haverfolk in Essex.

Due to having a lot on our plates the next day, we were unfortunately unable to stay for the final guest act of the night: folk group Apple Of My Eye (a shame, because I’d have liked to have seen them too); nor for the Open Mic session afterwards, of course; and unfortunately had to leave soon after Daria’s set ended.  But I know about the club now, and I know when its on; so I’m sure we’ll be warmly welcomed back next time.

My thanks to Paul and Trish and everyone at Lost Horizons; and to Daria, of course, for her wonderful set. PTMQ.

35. DARIA KULESH “ETERNAL CHILD” (Folkstock Records, 2014)

DARIA KULESH: 'Eternal Child' (Photo PTMQ)

DARIA KULESH: ‘Eternal Child’ (Photo PTMQ)

Recently I was unexpectedly contacted by singer-songwriter DARIA KULESH (a friend of ANGE HARDY – see my review on this blog #32), who sent me a link to the FOLKSTOCK RECORDS website which contains songs from her new album Eternal Child; and she wondered if I’d be interested in writing a review. After a quick listen, I certainly was.

The album is a collection of ten songs, all penned by Daria herself; and all based on her life experiences. They are therefore very personal in content – and unique in concept.  Each is lyrically very strong and interesting too. This is all the more remarkable considering that Daria’s first language is Russian; yet her English vocabulary is excellent, and this is manifest in the well penned song lyrics. My personal favourite among this collection, is the haunting ‘Letting Go’; yet all of them are excellent.

She sings them beautifully, too;  her voice, a joy to hear. Her vocal style reminds me – to some extent – of several folk singer-songwriters of the 60s. Although I’m not an expert on this genre, I do hear a little of Baez; Collins; Felix; and Sonja Kristina in there. She has also been compared to Peggy Seeger and Kate Rusby by other writers.  Yet at all times she has her own style that is unique and remarkable; and this is due to her eclectic influences – tangible in both her vocals and her song-writing.

Various musicians have been recruited as necessary by Daria for the project. These are BEN WALKER (Multi-instrumentalist); LAUREN DEAKIN-DAVIES (Guitar & Keys); LUKE JACKSON (Vocals & Guitar); KATE ROUSE (Hammered Dulcimer); and KAITY RAE (Cello). And I must say, they have all done a fine job for her too.

The cover is of the card gate-fold album type – which I prefer. One side contains a leaflet, safely tucked away, with printed lyrics and credits etc.  From this leaflet we learn that each song is personally dedicated to someone in Daria’s life – a lovely touch.  I highly recommend this album if you have a penchant for unique folk songs; thoughtful lyrics; and beautiful female vocal.

Daria is also a member of the folk group KARA; which she described to me as ‘…a quirky band with Russian influences’. She sent me a copy of their debut album Waters So Deep, which is also remarkably good. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to do a full review on this; but I do however recommend it highly as well. If you like Daria’s solo album, then you’ll like this too.

Here is a link to the Folkstock website:

http://folkstockrecords.bandcamp.com/album/eternal-child-daria-kulesh

Here is a link to Daria’s website:   http://www.daria-kulesh.co.uk/

PTMQ