Tag Archives: devon folk

32. ANGE HARDY “The Lament Of the Black Sheep” (Story Records, 2014)

Ange Hardy's The Lament Of The Black Sheep (Photo by PTMQ)

Ange Hardy’s The Lament Of The Black Sheep (Photo by PTMQ)

Back in early November, I was honoured to be invited to the OXJAM FOLK FESTIVAL at Hope Hall in Exeter, Devon; by my friends in DEVONBIRD. (See my review on this blog #28). One of the many outstanding performers that I saw that day, was Somerset’s bare-foot singer-songwriter ANGE HARDY. She has of late made quite a name for herself on the West-Country Folk scene; and was voted ‘Female Vocalist Of The Year 2013’ by FATEA Magazine.  I had a lovely little chat with her after the Oxjam show, and she kindly gave me a copy of the album to review.  As I mentioned in my previous blog entry (#31. A Review Of The Year 2014), this is my personal Best Folk Album of last year; and as I write, I’ve just heard that this new collection has just won FATEA’s ‘Album Of The Year 2014’ too!)

The Lament Of The Black Sheep. (Story Records: STREC 1653), is Ange’s third studio album, and was released last year.  Her  earlier collections  were Windmills And Wishes (2010); and the appropriately named second album, Bare-Foot Folk (2013). This collection consists of 14 self-penned (and highly personal) songs. All of them are well constructed and beautifully crafted. What stands out for me with Ange’s work though, is her vocals: the beautiful voice; superb diction; and crystal clear vocal style make her a joy to listen to.

Ange at Oxjam, November 2014 - a sketch by Naomi Hart (Reproduced with her kind permission)

Ange at Oxjam, November 2014 – a sketch by Naomi Hart (Reproduced with her kind permission)

The songs are both traditional-sounding and modern at the same time; and I like this juxtaposition, as she seems to have the balance just right.  Apparently, she wrote all the songs between June 2013 and March 2014 – she must be incredibly inspired; not to mention talented!  At times she reminds me of other, earlier artists,  yet at all times she is refreshingly original.

The lady herself plays guitar and sings lead vocals. For the project she recruited some excellent session musicians: Lukas Drinkwater (Bass; backing vocals – and a name already known to this blog); James Findlay (Vocals; fiddle); Jon Dyer (Flute; whistle); Alex Cumming (Accordion; backing vocals);  and Jo May (Percussion; spoons).

The cover is of the card gate-fold type, like an old vinyl LP (for those old enough to remember them!) It contains a good quality booklet that is packed with information about the songs; credits; thanks and dedications; and illustrated with lovely old  images from her family photograph album. The information is something I like very much; something that I feel is necessary for any album, but something which is all too often omitted by many artists. Ange tells us what each song is about and provides the lyric for each too (although with such clear vocals we don’t even need them!)  Having seen her perform live, I know that she provides this information verbally on stage as well; which enhances the understanding – and enjoyment – of the songs.

The album is very well recorded by Olly Winters-Owen of Beehive Studios; and production is by Rob Swan of Story Records. As I’ve already stated, this is my best folk album of 2014. If you like folk music and you are privileged to hear it, I think you’ll agree. I recommend it highly.

Here is a link Ange’s website from which you may order the album:

http://www.angehardy.com/

Here is the official video for the song ‘The Bow To The Sailor’…..

PTMQ

29. At the ‘ACOUSTIC WAREHOUSE’ Open Mic Night, PASSAGE HOUSE INN, Kingsteighton, Devon. 3rd November, 2014

Sophia and Rob of Devonbird  (Photo by PTMQ)

Sophia and Rob – Reels or jigs? (Photo by PTMQ)

To be honest, I was still suffering from the effects of a touch of Flu whilst on this visit to Devon; and although I was up for playing a couple of my songs at an Open Mic Night somewhere, I really wasn’t quite the ticket! However, I wanted to make good use of my time staying with Rob Wheaton, so we decided to drive over to the Acoustic Warehouse  at the Passage House Inn, Kingsteighton, for their regular Monday Open Mic Night. The day before, we’d been to  the exceptionally good Oxjam Folk Festival at Hope Hall in Exeter (See my previous Blog entry #28), so although I was fired up musically,  I was also knackered – you could say that the spirit was strong but the body was weak!

When we arrived at the place, we were warmly welcomed by Master of Ceremonies RICK LAWES, and two ladies called Janet and Mary – from whom we bought a raffle ticket.  We also met the founder member of the club, NIGEL DEE; and sound man MARTIN SIDEBOTHAM. The Acoustic Warehouse was founded two years ago by Nigel, who recruited old friends Rick and Martin soon after. The venue is an old pub, now used for functions and small gigs – the new pub is just across the car park where you have to go to get a drink as the venue is ‘dry’.  Such venues are frequented by many talented amateur, local musicians;  who are,  I find, almost invariably welcoming to strangers; and encouraging to passing performers.  The Acoustic warehouse is like that – friendly, cosy and informal. I liked it.

Rob and I had arranged to meet fiddle player Sophia Colkin there, as she lives not too far from the venue.  As she wasn’t able to stay for long, MoC Rick put her and  Rob on stage first. Being well used to each other musically, due to them both being members of the local  folk band DEVONBIRD, they played a very impressive couple of reels – or were they jigs? – well, whatever they were, they obviously had been well practiced, and I think everyone present enjoyed their turn.

Me and RW (Photo by Sophia Colkin)

Me and Rob W. doing ‘Tomorrow’s World 1978’ (Photo by Sophia Colkin)

I joined Rob then; and we did his thought-provoking song  ‘Tomorrow’s World 1978’; which went down well with the small audience. Next we did my folk song ‘Golden Boy’. I’ve played this live before (see my blog entry #12B); but I managed to fluff the thing up at several points on this occasion – I seemed to be all fingers and thumbs! I felt much better seated for my next song ‘Mid-Life Crisis Blues’ (which just about sums me up these days – and a lot of other blokes I know too – that’s why I wrote it!) This was performed a lot better (I’ve played this before too – see entry #12A). Rob played excellent lead for me on both of my songs  – thanks mate. Then I left the stage while he did his second number alone: his excellent ‘Essex Song’; which is about growing up in Dagenham.

Next on the agenda was mandolin player, MARC WOODWARD who played a couple of excellent pieces. Several varied turns – which were either good or very good – followed: a man called John did a couple of songs which included a Neil Diamond cover. A fellow known as ‘Owly Dave’ (so called because of his work with owls) played a long-scale bouzouki; and another John did two excellent blues covers: Big Bill Broonzy’s ‘Glory Of Love’; and Memphis Minnie’s ‘What’s The Matter With The Mill’.

The boys of the Acoustic Warehouse also performed. Martin played a couple of his own numbers – the names of which I unfortunately can’t recall (for which I apologise), but which were very good.  Rick played two of his own too: ‘Can’t All Die Down Here’ (about a mining disaster); and ‘Swine Flu Blues’; both of which were also very good. And Nigel played a couple of covers; one of which was an excellent rendition of Reg Meuross’  ‘And Jesus Wept’.

Later on, Rob and I were asked to do another number each. I chose to do my mellow Blues song, ’40 Years, 40 Days, 40 Nights’  (otherwise known as ‘The Face Book Song’) with Rob, of course on lead as he is familiar with it.   He then elected to do his celebrated ‘Festival Song’. This went down very well, as I expected; but I was surprised to receive a couple of compliments for my ’40 Years…’ song – a relief after my ‘Golden Boy’ fluff-up! Further success was to come my way too, when I then won a bottle of red wine in the raffle that we’d entered earlier. I think everyone else did a further turn too. Then some blokes from Birmingham turned up, and one of them did a good cover of Paul Weller’s ‘You Do Something To Me’ on a borrowed guitar.

The final act was another turn by Marc who recited a funny self-penned poem about a lady who bizarrely kept a pair of man’s hands in a box!  All in all, a good little session. When I get back down to Devon (next year sometime), I’ll definitely think about returning to the Acoustic Warehouse. My thanks to all staff and performers; and especially to Nigel for filling me in on some details.  PTMQ.

28. OXJAM MUSIC FESTIVAL, EXETER. Featuring NIC JONES; DEVONBIRD; GREG HANCOCK QUARTET; JEMIMA FAREY; GREG RUSSELL; APPALOOSAS; EMILY HOWARD; ANGE HARDY at HOPE HALL, Exeter. Sunday, 2nd November, 2014

I was originally invited to this charity folk gig by my friend ROB WHEATON – guitarist of local band DEVONBIRD. It was an invitation that I couldn’t refuse; so I made the four hour trip to Devon the night before; staying with Rob and his gf Sue. As usual they made me very welcome and comfortable. Rob showed me his new 12-String. Its a beautiful guitar and a joy to play. I knocked out Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ – it sounded wonderful (even with me playing it!) That jingly-jangly 12-string sound is highly infectious, and I had trouble putting the bloody thing down!

Sophia of Devonbird - a sketch by (and used with kind permission of) Naomi Hart.

Sophia of Devonbird – a sketch by Naomi Hart (Reproduced here with her kind permission)

On the Sunday morning, we set off for KATH BIRD’s house. (She being the founder member of Devonbird). There we met the third member of the band too – the fiddle player, SOPHIA COLKIN. Kath has a music room at the back of her place, and the band felt that they wanted a little pre-gig rehearsal. So I was privileged to be able to sit in on this little session. They planned to play four of their songs later that day:  three from their first album Hangman’s Daughter  (‘Fairleigh Well Old England’; ‘Lannigan’s Ball’; and the title track); plus a new song: ‘Greenwood Tree’, which I liked immediately. They also practiced two other newbies: ‘Rose’ and ‘Mary’ – reserves in case they were needed. The band told me that they’d soon be in the studio to record their second album. Based upon what I heard in Kath’s music room, I’m expecting another great album, and it will be interesting to see how they’ve developed as a unit; and what directions they’ve taken musically.  They also practiced a couple of NIC JONES songs in case they should be asked to join him onstage: ‘The Little Pot Stove’ (From Penguin Eggs, 1980); and the traditional old ballad, ‘Rose Of Allendale’. Marvellous.

We arrived early at the venue, HOPE HALL in  Exeter,  for the sound-check. There, I met the proprietress NAOMI HART. Naomi is an artist who rents the Hall (which is a former Baptist Sunday School founded in 1905) as an art studio; but kindly hires out the venue for exhibitions; workshops, and small gigs.  (She also provided excellent tea and cakes!) The show was organised by well-known local folk personality, GREG HANCOCK; in conjunction with  NIKKI WARNER representing the charity Oxfam. It is part of a large on-going Nationwide programme of musical events, dubbed ‘Oxjam’.

Rob and Kath of Devonbird - a sketch by (and used with kind permission of) Naomi Hart.

Rob and Kath of Devonbird – a sketch by Naomi Hart (Reproduced here with her kind permission)

I had mistakenly been under the impression that only Devonbird were to support Nic Jones; but I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were many other artists on the Bill. Originally I was going to write a piece on just the two acts, but I soon realised that there would be plenty more to say! Many of these other (mainly local) folk musos were already in the hall preparing.  With so many artists to get through, the sound-check took quite a while; yet it was very interesting, and I met lots of the performers. It was almost 4pm before all was ready; then there was a kerfuffle as someone said that Nic Jones had arrived! The folk veteran entered the hall greeting old friends warmly, and meeting new people  – including myself. We had a nice little chat; and I found him to be very friendly and approachable.

My friends in Devonbird were first onstage; and I’d been tasked by Kath to film their four-song set with her I-Phone 6. Their performance was excellent and went down very well, I must say. Their new song ‘The Greenwood Tree’ with which they finished, was especially well received (You Tube link below). They left the stage to great applause. I was surprised when Kath and Sophia told me that they’re always nervous before a show – even after all the gigs they’ve done together. It didn’t show though – their personal performances were very, very  good indeed. Rob though, being a veteran of many different bands and genres, was as calm as can be!

Fiddle player Sophia stayed onstage, as she is also a member of the next act, THE GREG HANCOCK QUARTET. The other three members are: Mr.Hancock himself (Acoustic guitar); JO HOOPER (Cello); and the remarkable LUKAS DRINKWATER (Double-Bass). Their set consisted of the beautiful ‘1 to 10’; ‘Baby’s Head’ (a thoughtful song about the Syrian Civil War); and the jazzy  ‘Old Lady’. A fine set. Lukas (swapping bass for guitar) and Jo, stayed on stage then, and were joined by EMILY HOWARD (who sung excellent vocal harmonies) for a fine number called ‘Straight-jacket’.

Next on the Bill was a young singer/song-writer called JEMIMA FAREY. She began her set with a song from her debut album Good Days, called ‘I’ll be Back (Just  Don’t You Worry)’ which is dedicated to her parents. She followed this with ‘Travellers Waltz’; ‘Farmer’s Bride’ (which was influenced by Lark Rise To Candleford); and ‘Song For My Sisters’. The beauty of her songs is in their simplicity, coupled with strong lyrics. I enjoyed her set; and the brief chat we had later.

GREG RUSSELL from Chester was our next performer – another good young artist. He played ‘Did You Like The Battle, Sir?’ which I immediately liked. He followed this with ‘Willy Ole Lad’ (a love song from Stoke-On-Trent), which he sang superbly, unaccompanied. ‘Away From The Pits’ was next; then ‘Rolling Down The Ryburn’, which we were asked to join in with. I enjoyed his music and later we had a chat.

Nic Jones - a sketch by Naomi Hart (Reproduced with her kind permission)

Nic Jones – a sketch by Naomi Hart (Reproduced with her kind permission)

The special guest Nic Jones then joined Greg R, for the finale of the first half. They played ‘Dark The Night, Long Till Day’ which everyone sung along to. And next they did the thoughtful – almost philosophical – ‘Now’. Nic still has that distinctive voice of his – a pleasure to see and hear him perform. There then followed a short break, during which Rob W went down the nearby pub and brought back a couple of beers for us both (as Hope Hall is a ‘dry’ venue!), while I rabbited with various folk musos; and sampled Naomi’s cakes!

First up after the recess were THE APPALOOSAS – an ‘Old Time’ American folk trio; consisting of ELIZA ACTY (vocals and guitar); PETER ACTY (Banjo, guitar and vocals); and STEPHEN POTTER (Fiddle).  They also have the added attraction of Appalachian ‘Flat-Foot’ dancer,  JO WRIGHT. They played ‘Come All You Virginia Girls’; ‘High On A Mountain’; ‘When Sorrows Encompass me Round’ (an Appalachian hymn); and ‘Little Birdie’. I must admit, that this is a genre of music that I’d not really encountered before, but I very much enjoyed their set;  with Eliza’s very distinctive vocal style, and Jo’s dancing! I thank them for introducing me to something new.

Emily Howard then returned to the spot-light for her own set. She began solo with a new song: ‘A Few Kippers’. The chorus of this song is derogatory to a current controversial politician.  She encouraged the audience to sing it, but their response  was a bit half-hearted – to be honest, she could have used any other politician’s name and it would have had the same result. With Lukas D returning to the stage, her next offering was ‘Where Do I go’ – the title track of her new 6-Track EP. It was very professionally played and sung. Then, with capo surprisingly high on the 8th fret, she did ‘Keep Us Sane’ from an earlier collection of her work. All things considered, it was a very good set.

The remarkable ANGE HARDY then, bare-foot, took to the stage. She began with  a beautifully expressive, unaccompanied cover of the traditional song, ‘She Moved Through The Fair’ – it was a joy to hear. From her album Bare-Foot Folk, she then played ‘Mother Willow Tree’; and from her new one, The Lament Of The Black Sheep, ‘The Lost Soul’. Also from the latest opus, she gave us ‘The Woolgatherer’ – written about her daughter. The ubiquitous Lukas returned to play bass, and Jemima, harmonies, for her; and we heard another new one: ‘The Raising And The Letting Go’ – a song about her mother. Her final number was ‘The Farmer’s Son’ – a song about a matricidal gay farmer! This was a very impressive set, all told.  Ange is not only a fine singer/song-writer; but a multi-instrumentalist too – playing guitar; bodhran; tambourine; and an Indian Shruti (a type of squeezebox). She also makes good and frequent use of a Loop FX device which she refers to as ‘Mr.Miyagi’. And throughout her set, her lyrics and spoken words were clear, with beautiful diction. After the gig I spoke to Ange and she gave me a copy of her latest album, and I promised to review it on this blog – watch this space.

Our special guest Nic returned to the stage once more at this point; and along with Lukas, they gave us Ange’s song ‘The Sailor’s Farewell’. This was followed by another of her excellent songs: ‘The Wanting Wife’; which she sang unaccompanied, with Nic on backing vocals. Then Lukas returned once more, and with Greg Hancock on guitar they played the traditional favourite: ‘The Rose Of Allendale’; which was a superb performance, and we heard that distinctive voice and vocal style once more. The audience too were part of this performance, avidly singing along to the chorus. The grand finale was a classic Nic Jones song  – old favourite,  ‘The Little Pot Stove’ (from Penguin Eggs). Everyone knew and loved this piece, and sang along throughout. And thus ended a very special concert indeed; and I’m glad I was there.

Many of the performances of this fantastic little festival are on You Tube if you have an inclination to investigate. I have picked only one – of course, its my friends in Devonbird doing their  ‘Greenwood Tree’.  My thanks to all those involved (I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone!) PTMQ.

12B. OPEN FLOOR NIGHT at EXMOUTH FOLK CLUB, The Manor Hotel, Exmouth. Tuesday, 20th May, 2014

Me & RW at Exmouth Folk Club (Photo by Big Mac)

Me & RW performing my song ‘Golden Boy’ (Photo by Big Mac)

Along with the two new blues songs that I’d recently written, were a couple of folk tunes that I’d penned too. Again, I asked Rob’s advice; and again he said they were fine, and with a little adjustment, would be good enough to play live. We practiced them, and even did a basic recording of them on ‘Garage Band’ software. Rob’s suggestion was to play them at the Exmouth Folk Club’s fortnightly ‘Open Floor Night’ held at The Manor Hotel that very evening. This is, of course, essentially the same as an Open Mic Night – but without the mic, as this would be a purely acoustic event.

I didn’t quite know what to expect from this night and I must admit to being a little apprehensive. As we entered the music room I noticed it was already quite full of people and there were many varied instruments scattered about. It was obvious that there were many experienced musicians among the crowd already there; and some were tuning up and discussing the tools of their trade with each other. Rob introduced me to several people who were all very friendly and welcoming. Rob had said there would be no amplification (which I was dubious about), but it became obvious to me walking into the room that acoustic instruments would indeed be adequate, and no amplification would be required due to the acoustics of the room and an attentive, quiet audience. The thought of 50 or 60 other musicians and music buffs appraising your skills is a little daunting of course, so I was very glad when Big Mac and his missus turned up again to support us.

Proceedings began with hosts Chris and Tony doing a guitar/banjo duet which was very good indeed. They were followed by a succession of competent musicians playing in various musical genres with a variety of wonderous instruments: excellent guitarist Dave Ward; Frenchman Noel (who sung in his native tongue); the entertaining Canadian David Hoad; Mike Selley, who played mandolin and flirted with the ladies (including Mac’s wife!); and then it was time for Rob and myself to have a go (to go on stage, I mean, not flirt with Mac’s wife!). Quite a few tough acts to follow!

We’d been asked to do two songs in the first half, and two in the second, so we started off with my cynical song about favouritism: ‘Golden Boy’ (which Rob refers to as ‘Golden Balls!’). And this got a chuckle and seemed to go down quite well (in spite of a couple of mistakes). Rob then continued alone with his hilarious alternative lyrics to the Steppenwolf classic, which he renamed ‘Born To Be Mild!’ This got great laughter and applause.

Bluesmen Guy & Dave - my pick of the bunch! (Photo by PTMQ)

Bluesmen Guy & Dave – my personal pick of the bunch! (Photo by PTMQ)

Many more good acts followed. A guitarist called Nigel Challis was up next, and turned out to be Big Mac’s daughter’s guitar teacher. He played a very good cover of James Taylor’s ‘Carolina In My Mind’. Two bald blokes (whose names I didn’t catch – sorry lads!) played a couple of excellent country songs on guitar and banjo. These two were followed by a duo called Guy and Dave who started off with an excellent blues on 12-string and a home-made ‘Cigar-box’ guitar. I’ve never seen or heard a ‘cigar-box’ in the flesh before, so that was quite a treat for me. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to talk to them about it afterwards. They played really well; right up my street! For me they were the pick of the night.

One lady called Judy played a couple of sweet folky songs; and another lady (whose name I didn’t catch) sang an unaccompanied amusing song about a rooster. A fellow called Simon played a funny couple of songs next; followed by the veteran Dave green who did The Eagles’ ‘Lyin’ Eyes’. The ubiquitous Martin Weller was next before Rob and I were called for the final slot. At last!

My final offering was my unfinished ballad ‘The Bhoys Of The Old 83rd’. Which I based on the life of an ancestor of mine – an Essex boy who joined an Irish regiment (the 83rd Foot) almost 200 years ago. Rob said it would go down well because it has a rousing chorus. In spite of a couple of serious hick-ups, it did go down well too; I’m glad to say! Rob finished the night with his brilliant ‘You weren’t There To Tell Me Not To Do It’, which is a very funny song that rounded off the night superbly.

Afterwards I got a chance to chat with some of the other musos. Everyone I spoke to was very complementary, supportive, and knowledgeable. Another first for me was when I got the opportunity to try out a ukulele. And a couple of people asked when I’d be back again, which is quite a compliment. All things considered it was a memorable night and a great eye-opener – such a great variety of styles and skills. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And yes, I’d like to go back again. I found it far more rewarding than at The Old Barrel the night before.

My God, I’m turning into a folky! Phil The Music Quill

4. ALL ABOUT DEVONBIRD

DEVONBIRD at HADFEST 2013

DEVONBIRD at HADFEST 2013 (Photo by PTMQ)

Being a friend and big fan of folk band DEVONBIRD, I feel I want to help promote them as much as I can – especially now as their career is starting to take off after the release of their excellent, highly acclaimed debut album, ‘Hangman’s Daughter’; and their nomination for ‘Best Folk Act’ at the South-West Music Awards last year. They are starting to gig further afield than their West-Country heartland now too – having played a few dates in Wales and appearing at the excellent HADFEST 2013 in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire.

DEVONBIRD’s website showing band profiles, gigs and other stuff is at:
http://www.devonbird.co.uk/

My review of ‘Hangman’s Daughter’ can be viewed on Amazon, where you can also download the album:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hangmans-Daughter-Devonbird/product-reviews/B00C3VMNEK/ref=sr_1_1_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

The title track from the album ‘Hangman’s Daughter’ can be viewed on You Tube along with many other excellent DEVOBIRD videos:

I’m now eagerly awaiting the 2nd album from the band; hopefully this year.

Good luck DEVONBIRD! Phil The Music Quill