Release Date: 17th May, 2019
Genre: Folk, Americana, Roots
Record Label: Dragonfly Roots
In April 2018, Edgelarks (Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin) retreated to a remote cottage in Ulpha, western Cumbria. They breathed in the mountain view, banked up the fire, and took their many instruments out of their cases. Then they sat down, and wrote. Tired of the navelgazing tendencies of sad songwriting, and the terrible events frequently depicted in the folk ballad tradition, they decided to turn their attention to an oft overlooked but vital facet of our lives: hope.
Swiftly, a set of songs and tunes emerged. Stories of wonder from the natural world; tales of rejoicing and long lost returns; and simple thanksgiving for their own surroundings and place in the landscape. Informed by world rhythms, British folk roots, and the duo's penchant for making as much noise as possible with only two people, the album is an upbeat celebration, an incitement to hope. The album will launch with an accompanying tour in May 2019.
Phil and Hannah have already proved themselves one of the most captivating and innovative acoustic duo’s in the UK and their fifth studio album certainly doesn’t disappoint. ‘Feather’ comprises ten original songs and a unique take on a traditional English folk song. All the excellent trademarks of previous albums are there. Phil on dobro, lap steel and beatbox harmonica and Hannah on banjo, fiddle and her distinctive vocal. Stomp and shruti box adding to the mix. Following on from his solo project ‘True North’, Phil also add more of his vocal to the new album.
Phil and Hannah comment that ‘Feather’ was borne out of a creative block. Weary from a lot of time on the road after worldwide tour, they retreated to a remote cottage in the Cambrian Lakes.
Hannah comments “We went there in the spring and breathed in the mountain air. We turned off our phones, banked the fire, stocked the fridge and wrote. Having had no time or energy the stories started to unfurl and we found that we were writing about hope. We had been lucky enough to experience solace, rest and welcome and these were now the things we wanted to sing about. We return from Cumbria with a suitcase full of new material - songs of hills, wild rain and sunshine and the circle of all things, songs for tired hearts and troubled minds.”
The album was produced by the in-demand Mark Tucker along with Phil at The Green Room in Devon.
The opening and title track of the album ‘Feather’ is inspired by finding a lone feather in the middle of a stone circle in Dartmoor. It’s a percussive, banjo driven track showcasing the duo’s wonderful musicianship. The sublime ‘Where I Stand’ was inspired by the Ogham stones and one in particular, the Dartmoor’s Roborough Down stone which commemorates two people with the underlying theme of migration.
One of the albums stand out songs is the breezy and carefree ‘Back From Hope’ with shared vocals and great fiddle playing from Hannah. It’s a song about a city based husband and wife who love to hike in the the Peak District. The contentment continues in ‘Wanting Nothing’ with wonderful dobro and banjo interplay, while twin guitars are the foundation to the slow paced beachcombing song ‘What We Save From The Tide’. I love the poetic parallels to the flotsam and jetsam of the creative process.
In the hypnotic ‘Oyster’ the pair explore the hope that can be found in nature, with a nod to a Emily Dickinson poem. Unusually Phil is playing banjo on the track with Hannah adding her tenor guitar. Watch out for the lovely build and an Indian mantra-like close. The gentle ‘Time Away’ advocates the importance of holidays with it’s looping rhythms that build into soaring strings and then fall back into a beautiful suspended stillness.
Full of beautiful dobro and banjo interplay ‘Growing’ celebrates a small miracle and is based on a true story of a lost and found wedding ring. While another album standout ‘Wander’ is a ‘song of belonging and welcome’ and showcases Phil’s fantastic beatbox harmonica playing. It tells the story of the loss of regional accents and offers the thought that ‘home’ should be defined by individuals and the place they put down roots rather than birthplace.
The only non original song on the album is their own very atmospheric and quite haunting version of the much recorded Traditional ballad ‘Spencer The Rover’. The album closes with ‘The Longest Day’ inspired by the turning of the year and the promise of summer. It’s a dreamy, calming finale brimming with promise with the dancing fiddle mimicking the rising of the sun in the summer sky.
‘Feather’ is a collection of ‘bright songs for dark days’, whether the darkness is perceived as seasonal or global. The album is very timely and perfectly on point, showcasing the music of one of the best Folk, Americana and Roots duos in the UK.
Phil and Hannah are currently on their UK album release tour with their London date at Cecil Sharp House on May 30th. Don’t miss them live.
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