Tag Archives: devon folk

76. DEVONBIRD Album launch gig (+ HARPING MAD; & GREG HANCOCK) in the Clifford Room, BARNFIELD THEATRE, Exeter, Devon. Friday 9th October, 2015. An on-line review.

Devonbird in full flight (Photo: Brent Ellicot)

Devonbird in full flight (Photo: Brent Ellicot)

Preamble: I was unfortunately not able to attend this gig due to various reasons, although I had been specifically invited by my friends in Devonbird. That was a great shame, as it was a very important one in the career of the band that I’d have liked to have attended – i.e: the official launch of their second album Turning Of The Year (See my review #71). However, although I was peeved at my own inability to be there, the band’s guitarist Rob had told me that the gig was to be streamed live on line via Livestream.com, and I would therefore be able to see it nonetheless. This is the first review I’ve written from a live stream; although I have seen them before.

Technical Talk:  I wasn’t too happy though, about the quality / inaudibility of sound; which somewhat spoilt my enjoyment of the first two sets; although I don’t know if it was the website or my laptop at fault. Master Of Ceremonies Tony Colkin, spoke without mic too; which for me sitting in Essex, meant utter silence when he spoke! I’m glad to say that this was improved to an acceptable level for the main Devonbird set though, as Tony had been advised to use the mic, and the sound generally improved in volume and quality too. Sight and sound were also slightly out of synch throughout the whole evening, but nothing I couldn’t live with! Generally the filming was good though, I must say – various angles were covered at appropriate times; and it was always in focus. Lighting was good; and I experienced no buffering.

The Greg Hancock Set:  Greg played a short solo set of three songs from his excellent new EP Comfortable Hatred. (For a review of this EP, see my entry #60). He gave us his ‘Three Conversations’; ‘Buckles And Buttons’; and ‘Old Lady’. Although the sound that I was receiving was unacceptable, I am familiar with these songs, and I enjoyed the set as best I could. I had seen him play live before; at Exeter Oxjam last year (see my review #28). On that occasion he performed with his quartet, but this time he was alone. On both occasions he gave a fine performance.

The Harping Mad Set:  I was not familiar with this duet at all, so I was looking forward to seeing them. Unfortunately it was their set that suffered most from the poor sound quality, so I learnt very little about them or their music. There was a lady on Harp and a man on recorders; and they looked good. I say ‘looked good’ because I could hardly hear a note or a word! The recorders came through well enough, but the harp and vocals were barely audible; and that is a great shame because I wanted to hear them. As far as I could hear though, they were very good indeed.

The Devonbird Set:  MoC Tony (violinist Sophia’s Dad) introduced the band and mentioned that he used to be their original guitarist – a fact that had somehow previously eluded me! My readers may remember Tony’s fine portrayal of a Saracen in the band’s video for the song ‘Greenwood Tree’. (See my review #58). For those not familiar with the line-up, Devonbird currently consist of: Kath Bird (vocals, guitar, whistle); Sophia Colkin (fiddle); and Rob Wheaton (guitar). These three regulars were supplemented for the night by the addition of an excellent drummer / percussionist: Martyn Hillstead. 

The set began with ‘Mary’, a Trad-style song about Kath’s Nan. This was followed by the Irish tunes ‘King Of The Fairies / Morrison’s Jig’. Kath, barefoot and perfectly in synch with Sophia’s fine fiddling, was impressive; while at all times Rob and Martyn (with bodhran) kept a reliable rhythm. This is a lively number, and the audience were keen to get involved by clapping along.

Every song from the new album was played, from the foot-tapping ‘Rain Dance’, to the wonderful ‘Dead King’s Land’ with its reverb’ed guitar intro. In addition they played ‘The Bold Grenadier’ – which Kath told us was the first song she ever sang live. (This song has not appeared on either of the band’s two albums). Also they gave us ‘The Crow On The Craddle’; and from the first album, their medley ‘Brannigan’s Ball…’ et al. Their main set finished with the remarkable ‘Star People’, for which Sophia played her electric fiddle, and Rob his 12-string. Great stuff!

Encore!  Of course, the choice for encore – and the only track from the new album not yet played – was the band’s wonderful celebration of Sylvania: ‘Greenwood Tree / Jenny Wren’. It was a fitting end to the show. Worthy applause having been received, all that was left was for Kath to thank all those who had made the night possible – and memorable.

It was a great shame about the technical difficulties during the first part of the evening (had I been there in person, I needn’t have worried of course); but it was a good performance from all the musicians concerned. The second album release from Devonbird is now available, and in my opinion, well worth purchasing. See the band live too if you can. PTMQ

For more info about Devonbird, see my articles: #4 All About Devonbird;  #28 Oxjam Folk Fest;  #57 Practice and Planning;  #58 Video Shooting;  #59 at Romford Folk Club; and  #71 Turning Of The Year Album Review.

The band’s revamped website is here….

http://www.devonbird.co.uk/

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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/

71. DEVONBIRD “Turning Of The Year” (2015)

Second album Turning Of The Year (Photo courtesy of Devonbird)

Front cover and inner liner (Photo: Devonbird)

I was pleased and honoured when my friends Kath Bird, Sophia Colkin, and Rob Wheaton, of Folk band Devonbird kindly sent me a pre-release download of their second album Turning Of The Year some time before it was due to go on sale to the general public. They asked me to write about it for their press release, and review it on my website too. I was of course, only too pleased to do so.

I was very impressed with the prototype versions of some of the songs that I’d heard on Garageband software that my good friend Rob (the band’s guitarist) had played me (in confidence!) some months before the studio recording began; so I knew that I should expect something good. It was a long wait, but worth it; as this second album is even better than their debut, Hangman’s Daughter (2013).

This fine new opus sees Devonbird in full flight; with Kath, Sophia and Rob melded together as a unit and spreading their wings confidently. They have comfortably embraced some of the various sub-genres of Folk music ranging from the Traditional to the Progressive. Turning Of The Year is a collection of nine excellent songs – mostly penned by Kath, and inspired by local / family history; legend; Folklore and spirituality.

(Photo: Devonbird)

Rear cover illustration. (Photo: Devonbird)

The opening track ‘Star People’ is one of those that I was familiar with some while ago; and is one of my favourites on the album. It is a Progressive-Folk piece that is really quite astounding. It starts with the ethereal sound of whale-song; and has an epic, desperate, and wondrous vibe to it throughout; which enhances the subject matter. It is dedicated to adventurers in days of yore, who have experienced being plucked to safety at the moment of impending doom by Guardian Angels – or ‘Star People’. Kath’s heartfelt vocals; along with Sophia’s and Rob’s respective musicianship make this a great opener.

The two-part track ‘Greenwood Tree / Jenny Wren’ (written by Kath, and fiddle player Sophia respectively), was first aired at the excellent Exeter Oxjam gig back in November last year (see my review on this site  #28). It was also the song chosen by the band for a video (see my article #58 ). Its a cheerful little song; simple but effective in construction, and builds nicely to a climax in the ‘Jenny Wren’ section where Sophia gives a fine display of her art. Its a celebration of the trees: ‘I love to see the fruits, and the shoots, and the roots’ sings Kath. Think of Beltane or Orchard Wassailing and you’ll catch the drift – the changing seasons; or the turning of the year.  I missed Kath’s ‘Whoop! Whoop!’ at the intersection of the two parts, that she utters when the band perform the song live, though! There is a link to the video below.

‘Mary’ is a fine traditional sounding tune. Its about Kath’s Nan Mary, who came from Dartmoor and worked for the noted scholar, the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould (The writer of ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ among many other hymns).

The tempo is picked up for ‘Rain Dance’. It is, Kath tells me ‘…quite simply about witchcraft on Dartmoor!’ It is a lively little song, perfectly evoking the folkloric beliefs of some Devonfolk. I can see the witches dancing around the oak tree as I write!

Title track ‘Turning Of The Year’ is another favourite of mine. It is a love song about the meeting of ‘Twin Flames’ (akin to ‘Soul-Mates’ I think), and steeped in the esoteric spirituality of New Age mysticism. Musically too, I find this song very charming; the vocal melody from Kath, and the harmonies from Rob are superb; all backed by wonderful fiddle from Sophia.

The CD (Photo: Devonbird)

The CD (Photo: Devonbird)

Apparently, driving home along the A303 from their appearance at Hadfest in Hertfordshire in 2013, Kath had been inspired to write ‘Dead King’s Land’ as they passed Stonehenge and its satellite monuments.  This sacred and ancient landscape has provided a muse for many an artist; and she came up with this wonderful song as a result. It is another that I first enjoyed in its seminal form; but I was very impressed indeed with the finished article. Its another Prog-Folk piece with a beautifully arpeggiated multi-tracked  intro from Rob; sympathetic fiddle from Soph; and more haunting vocals by Kath. Lyrically steeped in the mists of prehistory, Kath asks for the Dead Kings not to be forgotten. It is a song that greatly appeals to me. One of the best on the album, for several reasons.

‘Rose’ is apparently about love in its purest of forms. In this song one lover has to wait for her soul-mate (or ‘Twin Flame’?) to return from overseas. It is a beautifully sad song with a yearning feel to it.

‘King Of The Fairies / Morrison’s Jig’ are traditional Irish tunes; interpreted by the band in their own inimitable style. A beautiful piece; it is a vehicle for Sophia’s violin in perfect synch with Kath’s whistle. As in ‘Greenwood Tree’, the piece comes to life for the second part. Traditionalists couldn’t complain about this one!

Finally, ‘Rebecca Downing’s Lament’ is an interesting song. Kath took the words from a Broadside by T.Brice, and put them to a sympathetic trad-style Folk tune.  Its about the last woman to be burnt at the stake for witchcraft, in Exeter in 1782 – at the age of only 15! Its a well thought out song beginning with an ominous death knell from a church bell. Kath’s vocals and Soph’s fiddle are exceptionally sympathetic on this one.

All in all, this is a wonderful album in my humble opinion. It is clear that the band have tangibly progressed as a unit. Particular strengths are: Kath’s song-writing skills; Sophia’s continually impressive fiddling; and Rob’s increasingly good vocal harmonies – he plays the guitar pretty well too!

Recording was done at The Green Room in Devon; and production was by Mark Tucker – who had previously worked on their debut album too; so it was a foregone conclusion that he’d be asked to do this one as well. The CD comes in a standard Jewel-Case, with a very inventive and colourful design depicting the ‘Turning of the year’ (not easy to achieve with four seasons and only three band members!)  Photography is by Brent Ellicott and George Totorean. I think I’d have liked the lyrics printed out on the cover, but this is an oh so minor complaint!

Turning Of The Year is to be released on 9th October; and is quite likely to be my choice for Folk album of the year; so its a big recommendation from me!  Yes, I know I’m biased because I’m friends with the band, but it really is an excellent album, so I’d be spouting superlatives about it, even if I didn’t know them personally! Give it a listen and you’ll see what I mean. PTMQ

Here is a link to the official video for the song ‘Greenwood Tree / Jenny Wren’. (See my write-up on the making of this video Entry #58)…..

And here is a link to the band’s website; with details of gigs etc (including the album launch gig on 9th October)…

http://www.devonbird.co.uk/

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

59. DEVONBIRD (+ BILL FARROW & others) at ROMFORD FOLK CLUB, in THE SUN (PH). Tuesday 7th July, 2015. + a few words about the club and the venue.

Devonbird at RFC (Photo: PTMQ)

Devonbird at RFC (Photo: PTMQ)

These days my friends Kath, Sophia and Rob of Folk band Devonbird are flying high, with gigs ever further afield than their Exeter home base. And this is a measure of their increasing popularity and success. They’ve been all over the West Country, and have ventured into Wales on occasions; but the nearest they’ve been to my neck of the woods is when they played Hadfest in Hertfordshire back in 2013. This was the first time that they’d been to the Romford area though. Actually, the band’s guitarist Rob was brought up not far away, and has played The Sun on numerous occasions in the past. As for me, I live local too, so there was no doubt that I’d be along for this gig.

My regular readers will know, of course, that I was down in Devon recently at the invitation of the band (see my previous two Blog entries #57 and #58), who were making a video for their song ‘Greenwood Tree’. It was nice to have them in my Manor for a change on this occasion though. Another person who came along to the gig and was delighted to see Rob was the Blues guitarist Bill Farrow who is also a local man. Rob was once in Bill’s band, simply called Farrow. Nowadays, of course, Bill plays in the Milton-Farrow Skiffle’n’Blues Band (see my Bog entries #22 and #33). He has also played The Sun many times.

Romford Folk Club has been held down in the basement function room of The Sun, on London Road, Romford, for almost twenty years now; and they’ll be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the club’s existence next February. The RFC meet regularly on Tuesday nights. Its usually an Open Floor; but sometimes a named band / artist is booked. This evening, of course, it was the latter. Micky Brown and Garry Walker who run the club were very welcoming and informative; as were all the regulars that I spoke to. For any level of talent, its a good place to try out a few songs – new or old – in an amiable and encouraging atmosphere.

Bill Farrow at RFC (Photo: PTMQ)

Bill Farrow at RFC (Photo: PTMQ)

The Sun itself I haven’t visited for some years, and the main part of the pub has been done up very smartly; so that I wouldn’t have recognised it. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the basement function room, which is in dire need of redecorating – or even a good clean up! I think the RFC deserve better than that – especially considering that there were more thirsty people attending the Folk Club than present in the main bar that night! The barmaids were very friendly and helpful though; so thank you ladies!

I arrived at the venue quite early. The band arrived soon after, and I helped get their kit downstairs and set up for the sound check. When Garry Walker arrived he explained that the evening would be in two parts: an Open Floor followed by Devonbird’s first set; and the same again for part two. After a little informal jam from Mick Brown, Paul Ballantyne and Richie Barratt;  we were ready to begin.

Several regulars were keen to do a turn for the first Open Floor section. There was a great variety of musical style, performed with varying degrees of talent – yet all admirable in their way – and it was nice to see everyone supporting and encouraging each other.  Best among them were Paul Ballantyne with a good rendition of Richard Thompson’s ‘Vincent Black Lightning’; and there was some fine fiddling from Richie Barratt.

Devonbird were on next. Starting with ‘The Snows’, they played several songs from their first album Hangman’s daughter; including ‘Velvet’; ‘Fairleigh Well Olde England’ and, my personal favourite from the debut album, ‘The Brae’. They interspersed these with fine traditional jigs, reels and slides from their repertoire. Also, from their eagerly awaited forthcoming album Turning Of The Year, they played the excellent title track for us.

Informal jam at RFC (Photo: PTMQ)

Jamming at RFC (Photo: PTMQ)

After a short break, Part Two commenced in the same manner as the first, with various regulars doing a single song. Again very diverse in content and quality; but kudos due to anyone who had a go. It was nice to hear the duet, Martin and Jackie, because they played Fairport’s ‘Meet On The Ledge’ which I like but had totally forgotten about! So thanks to them for reminding me. Finally, the inimitable Bill Farrow played two of his numbers with a borrowed guitar: ‘Ain’t It Good’ which is great fun for a sing-song, and in which fiddler Richie Barratt busked along. Next he played his ‘Rain, Lotsa Rain’, which is inspired by the music of Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Personally, I like a bit of upbeat acoustic Blues and I could quite happily sit and listen to Bill playing all evening; but tonight however was Devonbird’s night!

My friends from Devon began their second set with the oft-covered Sydney Carter anti-war song ‘The Crow On The Cradle’ which I haven’t heard them do before. And an interesting version it was too. They followed this with two more fine new songs from the forthcoming album: ‘Rose’ and ‘Mary’. I’m familiar with both of these new ones, and I think the latter is an especially good song. After another jig medley, next on the playlist was the title track from their debut album Hangman’s Daughter. Also from the first album, they gave us ‘Purty Jane’; the song sung in quaint Devonshire dialect. After another foot-tapping jig medley  they finished with the wonderful ‘Greenwood Tree’.

I’ve seen the band play on numerous occasions now, and I have followed their developing live set with interest over the last couple of years – near enough since their inception, in fact. In that time they’ve gone from strength to strength. They are very tight as a musical unit; which is a result of their constant gigging. This is especially noticable in medleys, where the trio move as one – shifting seamlessly through changing time signatures with ease. These jigs are also remarkable for the faultless unison of Sophia’s fiddle and Kath’s whistle. Rob’s vocal harmonies are also enriching the overall tapestry of sound on the songs to a great extent now too. All in all, a fantastic performance which went down well with the small but enthusiastic audience.

Set finished; it was time to pack away the kit and load up. After a little chat and some fond farewells, Bill and I left the band, and I gave him a lift home.

Devonbird’s second album will be released in September; and I’ll be reviewing it on this Blog as soon as its available; so watch this space. I’ve heard the finished product already, and I can reveal that its a corker – even better than their debut. PTMQ

For more on Devonbird, see my Blog entries #4; #28; #57; and #58.

Here is a link to Devonbird’s website…. http://www.devonbird.co.uk/

Here is a link to Romford Folk Club’s site…  http://www.romfordfolkclub.com/

58. With DEVONBIRD Part Two: Video Shooting. Tuesday, 9th June 2015.

(Continued from my previous Blog #57).

Devonbird '...under the Greenwood Tree'! (Photo by Charo)

Devonbird ‘…under the Greenwood Tree’! (Photo by Charo)

The song chosen for this video, was the two-part ‘Greenwood Tree / Jenny Wren’ (written by Kath Bird and Sophia Colkin respectively). This is of course a track from the eagerly awaited second album from Devonbird – Turning Of The Year, due for release in September. Although I have been privileged to hear the new album already, the band have sworn me to secrecy about a lot of it. ‘Greenwood Tree’ however was first aired at the excellent Exeter Oxjam gig last November (see my Blog #28), and has been part of their live set since then; so it is well known to their fans already. Its an excellent choice for a video too.

The place arranged for the video shoot was Ideford Common, just south of the City of Exeter, in Devon. I didn’t see that much of it, but It seemed a typical English country park to me – forest in places and Moorland in others; and as beautiful as nature intended. Its popular with hikers, nature lovers and dog walkers etc – and of course, a great choice of location for the filming of a Folk Music video. Guitarist Rob Wheaton and I arrived first, briefly wondering if we were at the right place! We needn’t have worried though; as very soon, Kath and the others arrived.

Yours truly on filming duty! (Photo by Charo)

Yours truly on filming duty! (Photo by Charo)

I already knew that I was on filming duties; and Kath ran through what exactly she had in mind for myself and the other camera crew members: Brent and his daughter Amy. Brent’s son Matt was to be the soundman. Kath led us along the charming pathway where she wanted ‘Greenwood Tree’ filmed; and to the shady glade where she wanted the footage shot  for ‘Jenny Wren’. I’d not done anything like this before, so I was a little apprehensive. Kath however had it all very clear in her head, and I soon picked up the ideas that she envisaged.

Back in the car park, everyone had arrived and was getting changed into their respective costumes and masks; and getting their faces painted as necessary.  We soon had a great variety of charming mythical; quasi-historical; and woodland characters eagerly awaiting the filming. There was St. George; a Saracen; a monk; a traditional Father Christmas in green (no, I didn’t know FC used to dress in green either!); a Spanish lady in blue; a Dark Fairy Queen; a crow; an owl; a pixie princess; and a couple of dogs – quite a eclectic group of characters and fauna then! Not surprisingly we got a few odd looks from passing cyclists and dog walkers!

The first part of the video – ‘Greenwood Tree’ itself; ie, the slower, sung part – was to be filmed with everyone walking along the green lane behind the band as they performed the number. Moving backwards in front of the band and cast, were the film crew (Brent, Amy and myself); along with Matt the soundman playing a recording of the song so as to allow the band to mime as they walked. This proved to be easier said than done, as we found it almost impossible to keep steady whilst filming and walking backwards. I tried standing still and zooming out in pace with the band walking towards me; yet still it was difficult. We shot the progress along the lane a good half dozen or more times in all; so some good footage should have been captured.

Some of the cast in the glade (Photo by Charo)

Some of the cast in the glade (Photo by Charo)

The second part of the video – ‘Jenny Wren’; ie, the livelier instrumental part – was to be filmed in the shady glade. The band stood and played their part whilst the cast danced around them with an almost pagan revelry – but that was exactly what was required. We shot several versions of this part from various angles too. I must say, it was much easier filming this as we camera people were static during this section. I filmed a couple of cameos too; one of Father Christmas emerging from the bushes; and one of St. George fencing with the Saracen (during which play-fight the Saracen really was slightly injured by the over-zealous Christian Knight!)

All in all it was a lot of fun. Back in the car park the cast got changed; and the band handed out bottles of wine by way of thanks to them, and to we technical bods too! As I write, the video is being edited by Rob Jones (and the wine is being consumed by yours truly!) When the video is ready I will of course link to it here – watch this space. PTMQ

Devonbird: Kath Bird (Vocals); Sophia Colkin (Violin); Rob Wheaton (Guitar).

The Cast: Pete (Saint George); Tony (The Saracen); Pat (The Monk); Chris (Green Father Christmas); Charo (La Señora Española en azul); Katharina (The Dark Fairy Queen);  Daisy (The Crow); Mia (The Owl); Zoe (The Pink Pixie); and last but not least, Tyler (The Belgian Shepherd Dog) and Sophie (The Westie).

Technical bods: Brent and Amy (Video cameras); yours truly (Video camera and stills); Matt (Soundman); Charo (Face painting and stills); + various people (Costumes).

57. With DEVONBIRD Part One: Practice And Planning. Monday, 8th June 2015

Rehearsals in Kath's mirrored music room (Photo: PTMQ)

Rehearsals in Kath’s mirrored music room (Photo: PTMQ)

It seems that my friends Kath Bird, Sophia Colkin, and Rob Wheaton  of the Folk band Devonbird, have quite a busy schedule ahead of them of late.  Not only is their long awaited second album due out soon; but they have a few high profile gigs lined up for the near future; and they had a video to shoot for their song ‘Greenwood Tree’ too. Plenty on their plate then!

They invited me down to Devon to discuss a few things regarding the new album Turning Of The Year; due to be released in September. They asked me to write about the new album for the press release; and do a little filming for the video too; and of course, I was only too happy to oblige, having never done or witnessed anything like that before.

Band rehearsals normally take place on a Monday evening in the smart mirrored music room in Kath’s house; so of course, I came along too as I was staying with guitarist Rob for a couple of days. They rehearsed a lot of their songs – both old and new – that they intended to play at the forthcoming gigs. I’m not at liberty to divulge much about the new stuff as yet, but I’ve been privileged  to hear the second album already, and heard the band practicing the new songs; and what I can say is that if you’re a Devonbird fan like me, then you’ll be thrilled when you hear the new material that the band have produced, as they’re better than ever!

Rehearsals completed, next on the agenda was for Kath to go through her ideas for the video shoot scheduled for the next day. It was clear that she had some very inspired ideas; and I was keen to get involved. I thought it was workable, and sounded good! I think the rest of us also made some positive contributions to the plan. The details of filming will be the subject of my next article: Blog #58. PTMQ

For more about Devonbird, please see my Blog #4 ‘ALL ABOUT DEVONBIRD’; and Blog #28 ‘OXJAM MUSIC FESTIVAL’

To find out about the band’s forthcoming gigs – or any other info – here is a link to their website….

http://www.devonbird.co.uk/