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It’s coming very soon.
When I mean it, I mean the delightful BBC2 Folk Awards.

The main reason I like it so, is because it seems like a wonderful event. Last year it seemed really good-natured, the Cecil Sharp moment was particularly interesting and it all seemed to scale really well. What I mean is, you might see a folk artist in your local folk club, and folk music crowds appreciate the music. It is often quiet, heartfelt, in a way serious though some of the lyrics will make you smile, but most importantly it is warm and close to the heart. The awards managed this personable, welcoming atmosphere even across the opaque and intrusive glow of my television.

This is one thing, and “The Lament of the Black Sheep” is another.

The third album from Ange Hardy was released on 14th September 2014 and the artist and CD has received many accolades including “Best Album of 2014” by FolkScene, Album of the Week from BBC radio Scotland, and in the Telegraph’s Best Folk Albums of 2014’s list, to name a very small number.

Back to the Folk Awards again, Ange has been nominated for the Horizon Award so now seems a good time to look at the album and see what the fuss is about. I’ll make a few references to her previous album “Bare Foot Folk” which I reviewed in a previous post too, to explain the choices she has made with her latest offering.

“The Lament of the Black Sheep” differs from “Bare Foot Folk” in a number of ways which show versatility and reverence to folk conventions in equal measures. The last album was quite earthy, it felt very much like a cry from the earth against human activity, about spirituality and the earth punctuated with the deep sensitivity of motherhood, protection and ancient wisdom with some humour thrown in. “The Lament of the Black Sheep” feels more to be about movement and air, it is like the wind in your face at a country faire or the touch of salt and sand that blows across your hands at the coast. There is still a feeling of nature in protest (particularly as the reason the Black Sheep is lamenting is because his coat has been stolen!) but with the songs to sailors and farm workers it feels like a different commentary on humans; it conveys the winds of tradition and conversation with people working the land rather than the intricate mysteries and motivations of nature as it fears human touch.

Whilst these are the sensations I get from listening to the album, they are a boat’s deck apart from how personal the songs are to the artist, she describes the inspirations for the songs within the album in a lovely, open dialogue with the listener, a nice personal touch.

For me, the standout tracks are “The Daring Lassie”, “The Sailor’s Farewell”, “The Foolish Heir”, “The Woolgather”, and “The Lullaby”.

“The Daring Lassie” has additional vocals by James Findlay (www.jamesfindlay.co.uk), it is a good example of folk song which could be from any era, time. The song brims with optimism as it describes a modern yet old journey of a young woman finding her feet almost in a pilgrimage to self-realisation. The lyrics are crisp, simple and evocative.

I really like, “The Sailor’s Farewell”, the chorus has a fantastic hook which lulls the listener with sadness and loss “they will ride the waves away, and they will not come home”. Not only is it a lovely tribute to the mother of the gentleman who inspired the song, the flow of the song moves like gentle waves and long emphasis on the lyrics truly conveys the grief and lack of power that people have when losing someone at sea.

“The Foolish Heir” is a soothing, strangely joyful and wistful for a song about a girl who has been drowned. Ange demonstrates a wonderful, almost hushed singing voice that soars the girls innocence and soul across the Irish Sea, once again describing to the listener the power of water; in this example the girl has a fondness for the sea which the murdered soul views the beauty as such that she cannot hold it’s collusion in her death as a point against it. An interesting, hypnotic song.

When I heard that “Woolgathering” referred to daydreaming, I felt like it was such a wonderful phrase, it is homely and fun-spirited in a way which is woven throughout the song. This is definitely breezy, and once again timeless: you could imagine a young daughter with her attention texting on a mobile phone, or absently gazing across a burning summer sun, ending with all the joys, unpredictability and experience of falling into dirt. Like many of the tracks on the album, apart from the occasional reference to modern devices you would not be able to tell these are modern songs, and this is the charm of the album you can seriously get lost in it.

Finally, I will touch on “The Lullaby”. Ange Hardy did a good demonstrating her expert touch with “Stop your Crying Son” on the previous album, “The Lullaby” is a reminder of the eternal, circular movement through time and history of parents trying desperately to get their child to sleep. This song brought to mind the very inner thoughts (and outer) of some of my friends with young children describing at first the frustration, then the tired, slow frustration, almost prayer-like desire for calm. “The Lullaby” is a quiet, gem of a song of calm with the very slightest of begging.

Ange Hardy has at times a soothing, at other times a mournful, and also joyous emotive singing voice. Her voice is confident projecting waves of wisdom, empathy and understanding within an incredibly human album sung in a more traditional folk style compared to the hauntingly, spiritual and natural energy of “Bare Foot Folk”. This is no bad thing, as already mentioned it is another piece, another aspect of British Folk of memory, customs and feeling. I cannot fault the production, or any of the vocals and instrumentation from the other artists on this album:

James Findlay (www.jamesfindlay.co.uk)
Lukas Drinkwater (www.lukasdrinkwater.com)
Jon Dyer (www.jondyer.co.uk)
Alex Cumming (www.alexcumming.co.uk)
Jo May (www.jomaypercussion.co.uk)

Produced by Story Records Limited

The instrumentation feels right without being overly bombastic or sentimental.

Check the album out, it is a wonderful sythesis of the modern and the traditional and more than worthy of propelling Ange Hardy upward at the BBC2 Folk Awards. Check out her website for details of this album and more at http://www.angehardy.com

PS. I am really curious to know how muck spreading can go “wrong”.

What I Write

I have recently started writing in a more journalistic style in regards to arts event around the South Yorkshire region and for folk music on my blogpost.

I am hoping to reconnect to some story writing and this is a good opportunity.

Website

http://shedancesinthemind.blogspot.com/

Twitter Handle

blueestai

Publications

None so far

Write-a-thon Goals

Writing Goals

I will say, 1 flash fiction (500 words) and/or 1 short story per week.

Fundraising Goals

I have no goals in mind, so anything is a plus at this point.