Tag Archives: lukas drinkwater

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

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123. ANGE HARDY & LUKAS DRINKWATER “Findings” (Story Records, 2016). A pre-release review.

The 'Findings' package. (Pic: Ange Hardy)

The ‘Findings’ package. (Pic: Ange Hardy)

I was very pleased to receive a pre-release CD copy of the new album from prolific singer / song-writer Ange Hardy recently – this time working in full collaboration with the renown Lukas Drinkwater. Of course, I was keen to hear and review it….

The Findings CD came as part of a fine souvenir package. (As did her last album Esteesee – see my review #72). Apart from the disc itself in a deluxe sleeve (on which more anon), it included a lovely personal letter; a set of drinks mats (one representing each of Ange’s previous albums); fact sheets; and even a humbug in matching colours! And once again, all contained within a dedicated jiffy bag.

Both Ange and Lukas are well known to my regular readers; both quite remarkable multi-instrumentalists, song-writers and performers; and they have worked together before. Ange plays guitars, whistle, harp, and lead and backing vocals. Lukas plays guitars, double bass, and vocals. Some other fine musicians were drafted in as necessary too.

‘Findings’ we are told on the sleeve, are ‘The parts used to join jewellery components together to form a completed article’. I did not know that; but I can see its appropriate use to describe this album, as the theme throughout is precious family connections. It is a collection of 14 songs – 11 penned by Ange and Lukas; and three traditional tunes reworked by the duo. As I put the disc into the player, I was expecting Ange’s characteristically well-crafted, interesting songs; with delightful multi-layered vocal melodies sung in beautifully clear enunciation. I wasn’t disappointed, as I got exactly that… if anything, in some ways the album is better than even her last two albums. (See my reviews #32 and #72) So the input of Mr.Drinkwater on this opus has perhaps improved the already high standards of her earlier work – it has certainly modified it. Yet I’m glad to report that it retains a large measure of Ange’s typical styles and sounds which I love.

The album opens with the superbly woven multi-vocal harmony of ‘The Call’ – the first part of  a segued tripartite track inspired by the Somerset town of Watchet. Those remarkable vocal harmonies continue with ‘The Pleading Sister’; and this is followed by the beautifully arranged trad song ‘The Trees They Do Grow High’ (one of my favourites in the collection).

We are given a good variety of folksong as the collection unfolds. With subject matter ranging from the sea to the forests; from birth to death; and from traditional to contemporary; lyrically these songs are quite remarkable and fascinating to read. Other highlights for me were: ‘The Widow’ with its wonderfully woven guitar/harp parts; the excellent lyric and vocal arrangements in the Irish themed ”My Grandfathers / Bearded Ted’; and the poignant ‘Invisible Child’. All in all, a delightful and thought-provoking collection of songs from Ange and Lukas. It is a well recorded album too – sound quality is superb, and a joy to listen to.

The sleeve is a variant of the card gate-fold type with the CD press-fitted on the right, and the booklet fitted left. The book is a 20-page high quality, well-designed effort.  It contains all credits and thanks; as well as lyrics and much interesting information on the songs, including quotes from Ange and Lukas, that enhance the enjoyment and understanding of the opus. I expected as much from Ange. There are interesting rural photos printed too. Finally a unique (as far as I’m aware) game sticker is included on the rear of the sleeve; an explanation of which is too lengthy to include here…you’ll just have to buy the album! You won’t be disappointed in any respect anyway. Can’t fault it.

Finally, Findings is officially released on 14th September 2016, during a live session on BBC Radio 2’s Folk Show, which I unfortunately cannot attend, but hope to tune in to. PTMQ

Ange’s website

Lukas’ website

Further articles of mine that either feature or mention Ange and/or Lukas are:

#28. Oxjam Music Festival, November 2014 (Ange and Lukas)

#32. A review of Ange’s album The Lament Of The Black Sheep (Ange and Lukas)

#60. A review of Greg Hancock’s EP Comfortable Hatred (Lukas)

#72. A review of Ange’s album Esteesee (Ange and Lukas)

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.

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/

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

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

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.