Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Ange Hardy - "The Lament of the Black Sheep"

Somerset singer, songwriter and musician, Ange Hardy - winner of the FATEA Magazine's award for "Female Vocalist of the Year" releases her second album "The Lament of the Black Sheep" this September. Her debut album "Bare Foot Folk" was released last year and contains 14 beautifully crafted songs. From these foundations, Ange has used her second album to explore her own roots and the heritage of her homeland of West Somerset. It is a very personal approach to music, with many songs inspired by her own family and experience. The album features talented guest musiciansJames Findlay on violin and vocalsLuckas Drinkwater contributing double bass and his voice; Jon Dyeran expert flute and whistle playerAlex Cumming on accordion and vocals; and percussionist Jo May. These musicians add complex musical arrangements to Ange's beautiful songs. 

The album opens with  "The Bow to The Sailor", a song about the hardships of working at sea. This catchy song has many fantastically layered vocal passages, an example of Ange's ability as a producer. The vocals and percussion give the song a very fitting feeling of a sea shanty. A particularly atmospheric aspect of this song is Jon Dyer's whistle playing, which perfectly complements the melody.

The song "The Daring Lassie" is a particular favourite of mine. It is about Ange's journey to Ireland where she lived on the streets of Dublin for several months after running away from a care home in Somerset. This is an amazing story, especially as Ange was only 14 at the time. It begins with Ange singing alongside sparse guitar accompanimentJames Findlay then sings the rest of the verse. This works really as their voices are a stark contrast. The song has a memorable chorus and varying texture that make it really interesting to listen to. Like all of Ange's music, it is a song you can listen to over and over again just to hear the different layers. 

The title track for the album, "The Lament of the Black Sheep", is a retelling of the nursery rhyme "Baa Baa Black Sheep" inspired by Ange's son Luke, who as a toddler simplified the song andhappened to reveal the sadness of the story. This song sympathises with the sheep that gives away its wool and incorporates many wonderful harmonies, but is quite stark in its presentation with only a simple guitar line running alongside Ange's layered vocals.

Also inspired by her son, Ange wrote the song "The Lullaby". This song has a wonderful accompaniment consisting of layers of Ange's voice alongside the melody. The song is a Capella, and, as you would expectvery calming despite having an upbeat rhythm.

 "The Gambler's Lot" is about the generations of farmers it sometimes takes to build up a successful business, and is based on Ange's homeland of Somerset. The song comments on how mistakes of individuals can ruin the farm for those in the future. The topic of farming is particularly important to Ange as generations of her family worked in agriculture. This is a strong theme throughout the album represented on the cover by a picture of Anges great-grandfather farming. This picture was taken at the same farm as the pictures of Ange in the sleeve notes.

Other tracks range in theme from librarians to a woman who sends her husband to steal riches for her. Testimony to Ange's superb song writing are the lyrics, reproduced in the sleeve notes,that read like a storyFurthermore, through the arrangements of her songs, she creates atmospheres that suit the talethe songs tell.

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