Tuesday, 11 October 2016

ANGE HARDY & LUKAS DRINKWATER

CD Review

Findings

You should be able to get Ange Hardy on the NHS because there is something strangely therapeutic in listening to her singing on this album. Again teamed up with Lukas Drinkwater another element of class music has been added and they could be the cure for all modern ills.

Lukas Drinkwater and Ange Hardy
Considering she came to the scene quite late for a touring musician and doesn't carry the background and experience of many folk veterans, which is not always a bad thing, she has waterbombed the world of folk music making an impact that has spread far and wide.
After the success of Esteesee, which was essentially a concept album based around Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Hardy is back with a collection of new and traditional works without any constraints.
She is with prolific musician Drinkwater who crops up almost everywhere but this time has had perhaps more involvement than any other project he has worked on to date. Hardy has one of the best voices on the folk circuit and that is saying something when you consider the quality of female voices which are around at the moment. Her clarity, versatility, lightness and strength all come through on this album. It also contains her mastery of electronic gadgetry which adds layers to the tunes and if you have ever seen her live her feet work as hard as her hands when producing her backing sounds.
As she has proved several times already, Hardy can come up with the goods when it comes to songwriting and albums. However, with Findings comes Drinkwater who adds a whole new dynamic to proceedings, not only with his undeniable skill as a musician but also bringing harmonies which marry with Hardy's voice seamlessly.
This is obvious from the first track which is a triplet The Call/Daughters of Watchet and Caturn's Night. As the title suggests Hardy opens the song with a call. The tune is almost a potted history of Watchet in Somerset and is such a lovely woven blend of Hardy and Drinkwater's voice it's mesmerising and there is a lovely musical surprise at the end of the line.
Another luscious blend of vocal harmonies comes with The Pleading Sister, built around the nursery rhyme Little Boy Blue. In true folk tradition it ends in tragedy because of the central character's idleness. Sung as a round the subtle blending of the harmonies are a real treat to listen to.
Without doubt one of the highlights of the album is The Trees They Do Grow. A joint effort from the two, Hardy's voice is sublime and once again complemented perfectly by Drinkwater. The much stronger beat of Far Away From Land is the grim and true tale of Manfred Fritz and the rhythm and cadence in their singing mirrors the undulating movement of the sea which claimed his life.
Hardy's voice is at its emotive best with By The Tides, it is a truly a beautiful ballad but was inspired by terrible tragedy as the scenes of drowned migrants, who were trying to escape war, became fodder for the media.
The bizarre case of Manfred Fritz
Hardy and Drinkwater simple use their voices in the first part of My Grandfathers/Bearded Ted of Raddington. You have to face it, when you have a voice such as Hardy's and a harmonising sound which melds so well from Drinkwater then often music is gilding the lily. The second part is an instrumental tribute to Hardy's own grandfather, whose beard provokes fond memories.
For True Are the Mothers Hardy gathers around her two of her inspirational peers, Kathryn Roberts and Nancy Kerr, both of whom in their own way, have voices as distinctive as Hardy's. The song lauding the role of trees in both folk music and folklore borders on the ethereal with Hardy's female counterparts adding to the mystical feel with their harmonies.  Archie Churchill-Moss, of Moore, Moss and Rutter, and Ciaran Algar are worthy of mention in helping to create the atmosphere of the floating tune. The Berkshire Tragedy is Hardy and Drinkwater's interpretation of a well-travelled murder ballad. Many will recognise it from the Three Sisters. The guitar picking is precise and excellent and the skipping pace they create gives the song a sort of urgency as though they are trying to tell the tale covertly before time runs out and they are discovered.
Hardy's vocals really stand out on The Widow, her gorgeous tones are just a pleasure to listen to and as mesmerising as a siren, Algar's fiddle playing and Evan Carson's understated percussion adds real colour to this atmospheric song.
Bonny Lighter-Boy is a song the pair dug up online and so had carte blanche, with the end result being a clever use of music and vocals to create atmospheres of varying intensity. The duo move towards another social comment with Invisible Child, a song about carers who are children. The children being anywhere between five and eight years old take on the role of adults to care for a family member.
The tune is very light, almost like it was written for a nursery rhyme yet the lyrics are spot on painting a picture of how this youngsters carry out their duties as carers unnoticed and invisible. Hardy is another mother who, like her heroine Roberts, has written a song inspired by trying to see the future for her beloved girl. In this song she is trying to do what every right thinking parent hopes to do and that's steer your family from the mistakes you made. The gentle ballad is a really touching song and if her daughter doesn't fully understand the significance of her mother expressing her fears in song at this time, it's hoped one day she will surely listen to this track and feel her heart swell. Hardy's The Parting Lullaby is a deconstructed version of The Parting Glass and is almost the sister tune to the previous offering.
The new album and game
She has cleverly turned the well-known folk song into a lullaby and you can still feel the bones of the original song. The last song neatly wraps things up and returns to Watchet with a tune which is as quiet as the town itself today after its industries have died out. The singing is understated and the voices weave  in and out of each other in a gentle dance of sound that is almost like a musical massage. Hardy is an incredible musician and songwriter and her voice deserves her place among the other wonderful song maidens the folk scene has produced.
With the added input of Drinkwater and a host of other incredibly talented musicians, what she has created is a collection of songs which tap into your emotions and play with them for as long as the track lasts.
There is almost a spiritual element to Hardy's singing and songwriting and you can only surmise that depth of connection comes from her experiences and deep understanding of human emotions. If you've had a bad day, feel stressed, wound up or simply had enough then take Findings four times a day until symptoms disappear.

Findings is available now from the artist's website, Amazon, Amazon MP3, iTunes and Spotify

You can catch Hardy and Drinkwater on the Findings album tour where they will be playing Homegrown Festival in Bury on Saturday October 15. They will be in the Castle Armoury Hall from 1.30pm and tickets are £16. Then it's on to the Subscription Rooms, Stroud the following night, show starts 7.30pm and tickets are £10 in advance and £12 on the night. On Monday October 17 they play Green Note, London. Show starts 7pm and tickets are £10 plus £1 booking fee. Then it's on to Downend Folk Club, Frenchay Village Hall, Bristol on October 21. Doors open 7.30pm, show starts 8pm and tickets are £12 in advance, £14 full price (£10 members). Next it's Barry West End Club, Barry. Tickets are £12.50 in advance or £15 on the night. On Sunday October 23 it's The Regal Theatre, Minehead. Show starts at 8pm and tickets are £12, friends £11.50, concessions are £10 but on the night, all tickets are £14.

For those of you who are into the Findings game this half is "A Scholar".