Tag Archives: the lament of the black sheep

135. ANGE HARDY’s Christmas singles.

(Pic: A.Hardy)

(Pic: A.Hardy)

Ange Hardy releasing an annual seasonal single has become something of a Christmas tradition in itself over the last three years; and I always look forward to receiving the latest one. Her prolific pen can always be relied upon to come up with a couple of new songs that sound both familiar, yet fresh at the same time – and always of high quality.

This year’s offering (2016) is a two-track single entitled ‘The Quantock Carol’. It is a song written whilst contemplating the uncertainty of the modern world, and hoping that the future promises the peace that she feels when viewing the Quantock Hills from her home. It is backed by the ‘B-side’ (if that’s the right term to use these days!), ‘Mary’s Robin’, which is based on a Gaelic legend of how the little bird came by its red breast. Both are purely unaccompanied vocal pieces and sung with Ange’s characteristically crystal-clear voice and delightful multi-layered harmony arrangements, skillfully woven into a whole.

(Pic: A.Hardy)

(Pic: A.Hardy)

The CD came in a card slip case with a simple, yet charming design, and lyrics printed on the reverse. Typical of Ange – and something I do like on any CD case – she has written a paragraph to explain each song. Also typical of the lady, it arrived in a specially printed envelope, which also contained a personalised Christmas card matching the single’s cover.

2015’s single was a three-track EP featuring the A-Side ‘When Christmas Day Is Near’. It is a song that Ange tells us she tried… ‘to write a song that captures the joy, hope and unity of Christmas’. It is backed up by the excellent ‘William Frend’ (a track taken from her album Esteesee – see my review #72); and ‘Solidarity’, a song ‘written the day after the 2015 Paris attacks at the Bataclan, with heavy heart and hopeful soul’ she says.

(Pic: A.Hardy)

(Pic: A.Hardy)

This too arrived with a Christmas greetings card matching the CD slip-case, contained in a specially printed envelope. And again had useful explanations.

2014’s offering was another EP: ‘The Little Holly Tree’; backed by ‘The Wanting Wife’ (taken from her album The Lament Of The Black Sheep – see my review #32); and the traditional and beautiful 12th Century Irish hymn ‘The Wexford Carol’.

The singles (and in fact all of Ange’s back catalogue of work) are available from her website. Samples of her songs can be heard there too. Merry Christmas to you. PTMQ

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)

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