Thursday 20 August 2015


CD Review


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.

Ange Hardy
Just looking at the sleeve you see a style which is part art deco and part Bauhaus and it tells you this is not just folk music but folk art, close to a library on 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
With a change of pace Hardy brings in a beautiful ballad, William Frend, based upon a court incident involving Coleridge and Frend. This is without doubt one of the best songs on an album of seriously impressive tunes. It's not so much Coleridge but nature itself which inspires Friends of Three. It's an undulating and light ballad which has a touch of the renaissance about it. Patsy Reid's violin playing is particularly worthy of note on this floating song. Tamsin Rosewell orates Kubla Khan with the atmospheric music added by Hardy and Kate Rouse on dulcimer. Roswell produces a really effective narration which conjures up visions of sitting around her feet in a darkened room with only an open fire to half illuminate the scene. Within her voice, though smoky and feminine, there is a certain menace which keeps your attention as she executes the poem. The track, George, delves further into Coleridge's life and is inspired by his older brother. This is a deep and robust ballad but Hardy's light singing manages to keep it the right side of darkness. Pantisocracy, not the catchiest of titles, but relevant to Coleridge is a lovely traditional ballad. If it only had a tragedy it would be a wonderful murder ballad, but with Reid and Archie Churchill-Moss working under Hardy's voice it is just one of the many class tracks on this album. Epitaph On An Infant is among the most atmospheric songs on the album and Hardy gets a chance to show off her skills as a harpist too. The tune to Might Is In The Mind has a definite cheeky nature and tells the story of a ghostly prank which goes wrong ending with the death of the victim, so Youtubers take note! Knightley's voice is unmistakable on Mother You Will Rue Me where Hardy takes a back seat and contents herself with backing vocals. The haunting harmonies sound very similar to Clannad and the slight edginess of Knightley's singing mirrors the emotions Coleridge was going through during this childhood episode. The title track is a remarkably atmospheric song, based upon a nightly prayer of Coleridge and Hardy gives it the full treatment, using just enough vocals to tie the strands of music together. It seems Hardy's life is more intertwined with Coleridge's beyond her interest in the poet and this album. Along The
The new album
Coleridge Way is a simple ballad and a simple homage to the man and, like all the tracks on this album, is impeccably executed. When you have pretty much dedicated an album to one poet what could be more fitting to go out with than Elegy For Coleridge. The lyrics are based upon the epitaph found on the poet's gravestone and Hardy gives it a medieval almost festive feel as she takes out what is surely one of the most original and notable albums of 2015.
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.

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