Friday, 12 February 2016

Songs of Separation - Lady Maisery - Carthy, Hardy, Farrell and Young - The Rheingans Sisters - Hannah James, Sam Sweeney - The Askew Sisters - The Demon Barber Roadshow

I came across this band fairly recently. They were featured in a review in the Guardian. Usually, I don't read the reviews until after I have listened to the music myself so this I did. What I heard was striking. All the songs are well composed, polished yet retaing that elemental quality that typifies folk. I especially like the opening song. Written and sung by Karine Polwart, 'Echo Mocks the Corncrake.' I liked the way the sounds of the bird, the corncrake, is mingled with that of other birds before the track launches into a sound, the likes of which I have never heard before. I played the album right the way through. The final track, 'Road Less Travelled,' which Is no less worthy than any of the others on the album, concludes with more bird-song. This seemingly circular end got me thinking.

The music found on this collectives collaboration is sound stuff. The songs really are above and beyond the average. The mistake I made was to think I was listening to songs that tell of relationships, personal relationships, ones that have fallen apart leaving the only course to take for the lovers is to separate. Then that beginning song and its corresponding end, the bird-sound made me think some more.

I then did something I don't usually do. I went back to the review and read it through. This album, this 'Songs of Separation' has more to do with the union of Albion, with the differences of these islands peoples, the manner in which our different cultures have defined each of our nations individually and the way we have, in recent years, seen the four countries devolve. This for me makes perfect sense. I see no reason why we need a centralised government. It is only right that Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England, whilst still being members of a union, should not run their own affairs without some distant parliament running things for them. This is called 'grassroots democracy.' Or, as some would have it, localised democracy.

What this album identifies is the differences between us unites us. That even when fully devolved the four nations can still remain part of the bigger, whilst self-managing the smaller, picture.

Having listened to this album, I then started researching the ten musician's gathered here. For a start, they are all female, nothing remarkable in that -  more power to their elbow. The other heartwarming fact is the way they contribute to each others work in multiple ways. This infers they care far more about the making of music than they do anything else which in turns shows in all the music's they create.

With this in mind, and I admit to being comparatively new to contemporary folk, I then looked at the individual members, at what other projects they had been involved with. The results were stunning.

First I discovered Lady Maisery, a trio consisting of Hannah James, Hazel Askew and Rowan Rheingans.All three of whom are members of the 'Songs for Separation' collective. I then listened to their last album,'Mayday,' released in 2013 and discovered a right little corker. If anything, I prefer this to 'Songs of Separation' even though the latter remains a great album. This then led me to discover a world of other exciting ensembles - 

Carthy, Hardy, Farrell and Young.
The Rheingans Sisters
Hannah James, Sam Sweeney
The Askew Sisters
The Demon Barber Roadshow

Like a thread of yarn fallen on the floor that rolls into shadows previously unseen revealing shapes unfelt sounds yet unheard. The experience of finding the one album, the one collective is thrilling enough but finding a dozen is beyond my ability to describe. The music is undoubtedly folk. It is an indescribable joy to hear. And so much of it too.

Lady Maisery
The Rheingans Sisters

Carthy, Hardy, Farrell and Young.

When I first heard music it was through the explosive arrival of The Beatles. They were generous of heart listening to many forms of music before incorporating those they favoured into their own compositions. The one thing with the Fab Four and virtually every group of that era was their formation was rigid. There was little if any making of music outside of the band they were with. Not so with these girls. They form collective upon collective. Indeed, they are more like the Jazz bands of the fifties. Constantly forming then reforming in liquid collaboration. Yes, a joy to hear.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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