Friday 1 December 2017


CD Review

Bring Back Home

Ange Hardy

Ange Hardy should come with a health warning as well as kept well away from shipping lanes. Sirens who lured sailors to their doom with beautiful singing are supposed to be fantasy figures, however, after listening to Hardy's latest album that notion is thrown into doubt.

Her song writing and ability to infuse her compositions and arrangements with a magical essence is mesmerising. The talent she exudes with such ease puts her right up there with the best female folk singers in the UK.

Even Michael Cook’s cover artwork has both an ethereal and sinister feel and could easily be mistaken for one of the illustrations JRR Tolkien created for his famous books.

Should you want to open an album with a track which grabs your spirit, attention, your mind and imagination then Sisters Three is the way to do it. Hardy’s galloping and silky singing on this murder ballad is mixed with Peter Knight’s exquisite fiddle playing.

It creates a magical realm that explodes around you, giving you a sense of Hardy dancing around making you dizzy, breaking down your resistance until you are totally captivated by the world she creates.

You recover in the woods looking up at the blue sky and never ending trees with birdsong restoring your senses on Once I Was a Rose. Hardy’s other worldly humming creates a magical atmosphere for this conscience pricking song. There is a tone of regret in her singing as she reminds listeners not to forget their loved ones.

It really wouldn’t be a folk album without a song about the sea and the title track delivers. Hardy’s poignant lyrics are carried along by Evan Carson using cymbals to create the sound of the restless waves and Alex Cumming adding the sound of salt-washed shores with his bellows.

Together, with Hardy’s subtle guitar picking, they create what is a beautifully thoughtful song which washes over you and taps deep into your psyche.

St Decuman is a wonderfully preposterous story which, as we all know, make fantastic folk tunes. Shirley Williams recently stated you cannot write folk music, meaning folk musicians write music which then evolves into folk music by passing through the hearts and minds of folk to be adapted and passed on for generations.
St Decuman's Church, Watchet

Future folk songs have to start somewhere and this track sounds like the birth of one.

Hunters, hares, shape changers, willow trees and spells - how can you not like a ballad which crams in all these elements of myth, magic and legend?

With The Hunter, The Prey Hardy’s breathy tones create images of a group enthralled as she tells her tale. Once again that tableau is given colour and atmosphere by Knight on fiddle and Jon Dyer on whistle.

If you didn’t know how enamoured Hardy is with all things in nature then the uplifting Summer’s Day/Little Wilscombe makes it obvious. It has the feel of music of The Shire composed by Howard Shore. The sound could easily be the lost tunes of Hobbiton.

Claudy Banks (Roud 266) is Hardy’s take on a traditional song which she first picked up four years ago. This ballad, of a troubled romance and eventual redemption, is perfect for her soft, clear tones.

This is followed by the musical fable Little Benny Sing Well. The counting song-style of the tune speaks of the virtues of tenacity. There is a nice juxtaposition of Hardy’s velvety tones and Knight’s more gravelly, wizard-like singing. Once again Knight’s fiddle and Hardy’s harp inserts create a marvellous arena in which to listen to the tale.

Waters of Tyne Road (Roud 1364) is a love song which Hardy takes on herself using voice and harp. The ethereal instrument is perfectly suited to Hardy’s voice making her interpretation hymn-like.

Her storytelling comes up with the staple of many a folk song in Husband John - a tale of treachery and murder. Here Hardy sounds remarkably like another great songstress and storyteller, Daria Kulesh. The simplicity of the accompaniment which entwines the fiddle, whistle and guitar sets the perfect tone.

There is always a danger when a writer produces something as personal as A Girl Like Her, which is about Hardy's daughter and her struggle to be understood, that the listener can feel like an intruder.

However, Hardy is a very open person, you only have to read her online biography to know that, and so knows how to lay out the facts without being distant or emotionally saccharin.

Also inspired by real life is What May You Do for the JAM? triggered by Theresa May’s use of the term ‘Just About Managing’ and the subsequent response to the TV show she was on. Like many political songs it’s the words which are most important and Hardy doesn’t clutter the lyrics with anything other than the rhythm of her guitar.

Hardy's new album
Given Hardy’s past battles to be where she is now it would be easy to assume Chase the Devil Down had a cathartic strand. However, like most of her songs she has an incredible knack of keeping things light without diluting any of the message.

The emotion and feeling Hardy can muster is astonishing and the final track What It Is, showcases this skill perfectly. It’s almost the obverse of the opening track and, while just as enjoyable, it’s the other end of the spectrum with its slow and thoughtful cadence floating along like a marsh mist.

For a genre and a nation which produces some of the best female singers and musicians in the world, Hardy stands out. Her talent is obvious; her voice angelic; her song writing skills are among the best around and her ability to tell a story and create characters along with the world they inhabit is unrivalled.

Bring Back Home is available now from the artist's website and on download sites, iTunes, Amazon and Bandcamp.

Hardy will be touring this month, starting on December 8 at Folk in the Round, Monks Yard, 2 Herne View, Horton Cross, Ilminster.TA19 9PT. Show starts 7pm and tickets are available by calling 01460 200020.
The following night, December 9, you can see her show at Folk in Fernham, St John's Church, Fernham, Faringdon, Oxfordshire. SN7 7NX. Doors open 7pm for an 8pm start and tickets are £12 in advance.
Then on December 10 she will be performing an afternoon gig at The Square and Compass, Worth Matravers, Swanage, Dorset. BH19 3LF. Show starts 2pm. No information on ticket prices was available at time of publishing.
She then moves on to on Nailsea Folk Club, Nailsea Tithe Barn, Church Lane, Nailsea, Bristol. BS48 4NG. Show starts 8pm and tickets are £10 plus booking fee of 7.5%.
From there, on December 17, she will play a Christmas concert at Folk at the Froize, The Street, Chillesford, Woodbridge, Suffolk. IP12 3PU. Doors open 7pm for a 7.30pm start and tickets are £15 + booking fee which includes food.

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