Nick Hart sings ten English folk songs
Nick Hart – Ten English Folk Songs
Roebuck Records – April 29, 2022
Although there may be a logical progression to the titles of Nick Hart, there is a difference between this collection and its predecessors. The quintessential English folk songs featured on Nick Hart sings nine English folk songs and …Eight English Folk Songs were delivered in his unique stripped-down style, while on this latest offering his songs are accompanied by a surprisingly wide variety of instruments, including some homemade ones, and stunningly seductive layered arrangements.
You may not be surprised to learn that there are many May songs in English folk music, and it is May Song, one of the three songs in this version, which opens the album. There are countless variations of May Song, although this one hails from Fowlmere in Cambridgeshire, where Nick’s father was born, and it has a smooth beat that is nonetheless emphatic enough to want to join in on.
The other songs are Dives and Lazarus and Under the leaves of life. Nick’s version of Dives and Lazarus has what I can only describe as a terrific piece of Tudor-meets-African music thanks to the emphatic rhythm, whistles and a homemade lyre made from an old banjo and table legs. In contrast, Under the leaves of life has a simple arrangement; it’s soft and gentle, intimate and close, befitting the subject matter.
If you’ve heard Nick’s previous recordings and read the liner notes for those albums, you’ll know how much he admires the singers who came before him. They understand sam larnerwho sang the ballad of the Child Henry Martin presented here, and Sorry Walter, both of Norfolk. It’s Jack Hall’s version of Walter Pardon which Nick apparently did various arrangements, though none of them came up to par, and so we hear a compelling, direct combination of vocals and guitar that may be appropriate for a gallows confession.
Two viols with a clarinet open the bewitching and tragic story of Lucy Wan. This very old style of dialogue song, between a son and his mother, concerns the son killing his sister while she carries her child. Lying in metaphor in some versions, this theme has been accepted by both Cecil Sharp and AL Lloyd and demands proper presentation. In this version, the clarinet follows the sung lines and then offers an interlude to ground the lyrics and provide a break. The arrangement is delicate and poignant, with plenty of space. As with May Song, this version also came from Cambridgeshire. Ella Bull collected the song from Charlotte Dann from Cottenham – a village I learned of relatively recently, where my paternal grandmother grew up with her 12 siblings.
Our captain is calling is one of many songs with many interpretations depending on the words used. The version sung by Nick comes from Tom Willets and is close to that of George ‘Pop’ Maynard, a beautiful album finale. The well-known tune, used by Vaughan Williams for John Bunyan’s anthem to be a pilgrimis simply given and draws a wry smile at the end as Holst’s I Vow To Thee My Country spreads, a link indicating the relationship between Holst and Vaughan Williams, and the connection between going off to fight someone’s war and promising to defend our campaign.
Ten English Folk Songs is another great set from Nick Hart. The original and exciting arrangements and instrumentation are delicate and balanced. Combined with Nick’s distinctive voice, he brought these folk songs into the present day, giving them new life and extending their long history.
Nick Hart sings ten English folk songs will be released April 29 on Roebuck Records via Proper Music Distribution. Catalog number: RRCD003. Formats: CD/digital download/stream.
Pre-order here: https://nickhart.lnk.to/TenEnglishFolkSongs
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