Before you start listening to this album, take the time to look at the artwork and the extensive sleeve notes, there has been a lot of thought, understanding, work and passion put into this disc.
Perhaps the only person who looks deeper into the music she produces is the incredible Fay Hield who drags history along in the wake of every song she lays down.
There is a single strand which unites all the tracks on Ange Hardy's latest offering, Samuel Taylor Coleridge from where the title comes, avoiding a spoiler, you will see the connection when you buy the album.
This said you can then enjoy the simple fact that Hardy is a damn fine musician and knows how to combine folk culture and music in a way which makes you want to understand more of the feast she has lain before you.
Even with all the tradition and history Hardy does have a knack of putting a contemporary feel onto the familiar.
The Somerset born artist opens with The Foster-Mother's-Tale which is the first offering from Coleridge she ever read. It is a narrative of the life of one boy and is very close to a shanty and features the immense talents of Steve Knightley and Lukas Drinkwater alongside Hardy's silken and emotive tones. My Captain is the start of Hardy squeezing every ounce of understanding from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It's a light, almost hornpipe tune that is fast-paced and hopes to express the initial excitement of a new project. Hardy admits she could have produced an entire album based upon the poem and she isn't far off with this one. The Curse Of A Dead Man's Eye begins with David Milton dramatically reading the beginning of The Rime. Hardy's voice comes in with the cadence of the oars being pulled across the water as a human engine moving a ship. You can almost feel the beat that could be of the slave master on the drum.
|Samuel Taylor Coleridge|
|The new album|
If folk singers were to make the old-style concept album then this is probably as close as you will get to it anywhere. To produce an entire set of songs inspired and using the works of a singular poet sounds like something bordering on the obsessive, but Hardy pulls it off. What she has put together is a fascinating, original and intriguing piece of work which is both contemporary and rooted in tradition and she has done it without getting mired down in self indulgence. It will be a big surprise if Esteesee doesn't figure in the rounds of annual folk awards purely for the amount of work, time and effort Hardy has obviously put into this project and this is before you even get to the quality of her singing and songwriting.
You can catch Hardy at Bromsgrove Folk Club on August 27. Entry is £6 for members, £8 for non-members and £3 for anyone under 21. Doors open 7.30pm with the show at 8pm.