Tag Archives: oxjam

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