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