HANNAH SANDERS & BEN SAVAGE - BEFORE THE SUN
LCM ALBUM OF THE WEEK
Release date: 16th September, 2016
Genre: Folk, Americana
Band: Hannah Sanders (Vocals, Guitar, Dulcimer, Autoharp), Ben Savage (Vocals, Guitar, Dobro), Kevin Breit (Guitar, Mandola), Evan Carson (Percussion, Bodhran), Jim Causley (Vocals), Robin Gillan (Vocals), Katriona Gilmore (Mandolin, Fiddle, Vocals), Jade Rhiannon (Vocals) and John Thorne (Double Bass)
Location: Cambridge, UK
Record Label: Sungrazing Records
Every so often a new collaboration takes place which evolves into something very special indeed. This is certainly the case for our next album the superb 'Before The Sun', from the newly formed duo of Hannah Sanders and Ben Savage. We think it is another strong contender for next year's BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Hannah has a lovely pure vocal and has often been described as the UK's very own 'Joni Mitchell', she is also an excellent dulcimer player as well. Ben taking time out from 'The Willows', provides strong musicianship on guitar and dobro, as well as vocals which complement Hannah's very well. The album is a collection of 10-tracks a mixture of traditional, covers and self-penned songs, together with a lovely cover of Bob Dylan's 'Boots Of Spanish Leather'. it is a wonderful mix of traditional and contemporary folk together with Americana, which reflects Hannah and Ben's UK and American influences. The album was recorded around a single simple microphone and this gives the wonderful production a pure and retro quality.
We have know Hannah and Ben for almost three years now and it has been very exciting to follow their progress through Hannah's debut EP and her debut album which Ben produced and played on, through to the birth of their new musical partnership. The album was produced in Toronto by the famous and multi-award winning David Travers-Smith (Ruth Moody, The Wallin' Jennys etc). The album has a few guest stars as well including Kevin Breit, Jim Causley, Robin Gillan, Jon Throne, Katriona Gilmore (Gilmore and Roberts) and Jade Rhiannon (The Willows) and Evan Carson (The Willows, Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys, The Changing Room).
As is often the case in folk music you have fairly dark subject matter paired with a very catchy tune and 'The Fall (Hang)' written by Hannah and Ben is a typical example. One of our favourites on the album this is a beautifully written song. Wonderful twin finger-picked acoustic guitars. It conveys a picture of calm, peaceful late summer’s day in the countryside. Although as the song reveals itself, it's told from the perspective of a man being hung from a tree. "Neck tied and knees, knocking as I fall...and the ground beneath my feet, where the worms are busy".
The first of the traditional songs is the gentle 'Come All Ye Fair & Tender Maids' which comes from Hannah's days singing with her family group 'The Dunns'. The song was only sung in the group by her mother, sister and herself. This really showcases Hannah's vocal and you can really understand the Joni Mitchell comparison. Two acoustic guitars and vocals in perfect harmony. Watch out for the slightly macabre schoolyard round at the end.
'Sun is Gonna Rise' is a lovely cover of a Bill Miller song. It has a lovely sparse arrangement, which drifts and floats. It has almost a ethereal quality.
The self penned 'What's It Tonight My Love' is another high quality written song which has slightly more jazzy influences. It's about seeking direction (“we stop at the door confused, the world runs ahead of the mind”) in a town “where people only pretend”. We love Evan's light brushed percussion which underpins the vocals and guitars.
Next up is the traditional and quite dark 'Lady Margaret'. A tale of eerie dreams sequences, a wild boar, a bride bed full of blood, suicide and William's stricken plan to join her. It has quite a retro 'Pentangle' feel. The Americana flavoured 'Clayton Boone' recounts the story of the real-life New Mexico landowner’s pursuit off his unfaithful wife. Ben takes the lead on the song and provides some very good Dobro playing. "Well, I'll not come home to my own sweet bed--the sheets turned down so gayly, And I'll forget your silver and gold and all for the love of Davy. "Last night I slept with a mean old man in golden rooms so stately, Tonight I'll sleep on the hard cold ground by the warm side of my Davey, And I'll ride along with Davey." The almost hypnotic 'Deep Blue Sea' is a deep tale of lost love “stole my heart to get down into the deep blue sea.....grief hear his voice in the wind at night, see his face in the pale moonlight”. It's one of those fascinating songs that leaves us all feeling though we have sung a chorus together, when in fact there has been no chorus at all. 'Ribbons and Bows' is a cover of a Richie Steans song with dulcimer replacing the old time banjo of the original version. It another quite dark subject. A song about choosing the means of your own death, here “falling through the hot summer sky with ribbons and bows tied to my hands and feet“.
Another dark tradition song is the 'Unquiet Grave' dealings with the superstitions surrounding excessive grieving. The poor dead lover cannot fall into eternal sleep for the noise his beloved makes in mourning. He admonishes her, yet his parting words to live life are very touching. "So make yourself content, my love, till God calls you away.”
The albums ends with a cover of Bob Dylan's famous 'Boots of Spanish Leather', which was first released on his 1964 album 'The Times They Are a-Changin'. It is a restless, forlorn ballad for the ages and sages — a classic Dylan tale of two lovers, a crossroads and the open sea. This is a sublime version of the song from Ben and Hannah.