Some reviews are harder to write than others. Sometimes the performance hasn’t been to my taste but I have to take into account the audience’s response. And, to be honest, that isn’t always easy. I always try to find something positive to say, However, there are gigs when the hardest bit is when the performance is so impressive and there’s such a vibe in the room that it is hard not to go overboard with praise …… which brings me to Ange Hardy & Lukas Drinkwater……
Let’s start with criticisms: I wish they would learn to project their spoken voices as they do their singing voices; errrr…... that’s all.
Gorgeous harmonies are a big feature of Ange’s & Lukas’ partnership. Because Ange has the lead voice & is the main song-writer, the focus is inevitably on her but Lukas is far from being simply the accompanist in the background. His sensitive voice & guitar is essential.
This is a real partnership where the sum of the parts is much greater than their individual contributions. Or, to put it another way, they are bloody brilliant together!
One of the things they talked about was their gift from the EFDSS of a week researching & writing in Cecil Sharp House. For me, this blend of modern & traditional is a shining strength in their work. One of the songs to come from this was “Far Away From the Land” - a fabulous composition with beauty & meaning.
From the opening number, “Daughters of Watchet” followed by the wonderful rendition of the traditional “The Trees They Do Grow High” they set out their stall of beautifully textured harmonies, delicate music & impressively crafted lyrics. This was folk of the highest order! A feature of Ange’s performance & song-writing is her openness & honesty which was displayed to great effect in her introduction to & her singing of “Daughter, Dear Daughter”. And then there’s their traditional music! “The Sailor’s Farewell” (aka “Mabel”) was excellent. “Invisible Child”, “The Berkshire Tragedy” the chilling piece about the four angels at Coleridge’s bed etc - far too many to mention! But, I must confess, that if the whole evening had consisted of one sublime song this audience member would have gone away very pleased indeed. Ange sang it solo acapella and I’m sure I’ve never heard a better singing of “She Moved Through the Fair”. Thank you.
If you get the chance to hear Ange & Lukas at a good venue, take it. If you can’t, go out & buy “Findings”. If this album & duo don’t feature in the end of year award nominations, there’s no justice.
- Reviewer - Calstock Arts
On Saturday, Ange Hardy (harp, whistle and lead vocal) and Lucas Drinkwater (vocal, bass and guitar) gave a thoughtful and well-constructed set;
Hardy’s voice is warm and knowing, and her use of a loop pedal effective, on both whistle and voice. Her writing is incisive and relevant. Invisible Child, which deals with the plight of child carers, was a stand-out track.
- Reviewer - Kemptation
“It’s basically a folk song – it’s got the sea and death”
Ange Hardy and Lukas Drinkwater have separately made their mark on the modern folk scene, and their respective reputations filled The Green Note for their headline set as a duo.
They essentially played their new album, Findings, in full, explaining that the title refers to “two components [that make] something bigger than the sum of their parts.” It’s true of the tracks, often blending traditional pieces with new surrounding verses and melodies. It’s true, too, of the duo.
Both Hardy and Drinkwater are clearly comfortable on stage, both within and between songs. Not only were several performed in resounding a capella, each song was fully introduced within its historical context. That’s not to say they’re stuck in the past – some of their most compelling new material was inspired by contemporary new stories.
Hardy explained that their devastatingly beautiful song Invisible Child, written from the point of view of a five year old carer, came from “a little thread that was working its way through the back pages.” She described the 5-7 year old carers as “unfound”; they’re not officially counted or supported because they’re not expected to have such responsibilities, and “they don’t come and ask for help.”
The song’s micro focus on a macro problem echoes the duo’s approach in the song, By The Tides. It’s about children who were found in the most tragic way – drowned and washed ashore, just two amongst many Syrian refugees who didn’t find the safety they sought.
Completing the trio of real-life tragedies was The Sailor’s Farewell, inspired by a story once told by an audience member. His mother dealt with his father’s absences by hanging one of two paintings, either The Sailor’s Farewell or The Sailor’s Return. Sadly, the father’s boat was lost at sea and the painting could never be changed again: “she just waited by it.”
Hardy was justifiably emotional when speaking about the enduring ramifications of this loss – the searching, open-ended uncertainty borne by lack of closure, and the impact of grief at close quarters; of having to grow up too quickly and “not knowing how to help and what to do.”
Having, at the son’s request, turned the intensely private tragedy into a bittersweet, beautiful song, there was a final unfortunate twist. Due to a mistake in the contact details he left, he can’t be found and has never heard the powerful song.
It’s increasingly common for loop pedals to be used for layering and can sometimes be overdone, leading to jarring cacophony. Hardy’s use was different, leading to ethereal, otherworldly harmonies floating around the intimate space.
Hardy and Drinkwater’s serious and searing performances were balanced by the warm, endearing relationship between them. We’re lucky they found each other.
- Reviewer - Redrospective
This gig starts with a discarded CD and ends with a campfire. Ange Hardy’s promotional CD was binned by a local newspaper – “Ugh! Folk!” It was retrieved and passed on to Zarla in deepest Leicestershire. Zarla loved it and she and Ange became firm friends. This house gig, albeit held in a small scout hit, was one result. A crowd of about forty was treated to an intimate evening, featuring great sets from two rising stars of the scene, Ange Hardy and Luke Jackson, plus a buffet that would have fed five thousand.
Ange Hardy has a life story that would frighten the horses but she performs with a warmth that is both disarming and inspirational. Her songs of life and the countryside feel traditional, and she augments voice and guitar with very effecgive use of a loop pedal to add harmonies or extra instruments. It is a great feat of perfect timing.
Like Jackson has an incredibly mature and expressive voice that can holler the blues or give sensitive treatment to his own more personal tales of friends and family. There’s something of Martyn Joseph in Luke’s style, perhaps not surprising given Martyn’s early interest in his career, but Luke is very much his own man and his personality shines through convincingly.
The gig was very special, and ended with some real heat. Playing in a Scout hut leads inevitably to a singsong round the campfire, though sadly no one volunteered to attempt ‘Ging Gang Goolie’.
Reviewer: Ian Croft, R2 Magazine
At the end of the evening this was one of those gigs where I felt that I really should have spent some time photographing the audience. Not because there was nothing on stage worth point a camera at, far from it, more because what there was on stage made this one of those gigs that will have an increasing audience size as it progresses.
Before I get into full flow, I think it's only fair I declare an interest, along with Acoustic Cafe's Brian Player, it was my privilege to co-compere this gig on what turned out to be an incredible night at the Regal Theatre in Minehead.
We were here for the launch of Ange Hardy's new album, "The Lament Of The Black Sheep", an album inspired by a rural idiom and yet one that also contains a number of nautical and historical references, so an art deco theatre on the North Somerset Coast with a view of sweeping farmland, if you looked really hard, was the ideal place for this incredible album to officially come to life.
I say officially as, like many a modern album, "The Lament Of The Black Sheep" has already had a soft launch, gathered a five star review in the Telegraph, been awarded album of the week accolades and garnered universal praise up and down the country and beyond, including here, if you want to check out our reviews section. This is not a review of the album, rather the launch and like a liner coming down the ramp and into the water, somewhat spectacular.
"This is not a review of the album, rather the launch and like a liner coming down the ramp and into the water, somewhat spectacular."
Being the album launch, Ange was joined by a number of musicians that had helped make the album, Jo May, Lukas Drinkwater, Andrew 'Rocky' Rock and additional vocalists in the shape of Luke Jackson, Steve Pledger and Jemima Farey. Nothing unusual in that you might think, except that this was also Ange Hardy's debut performance with a band.
Like an album it was a show of two halves and a series of grand performances, with each half having vignettes from two excellent songwriters and then a performance from Ange, gradually being joined by her band. This was a night where songwriting reigned supreme and Ange gave herself the fearsome prospect of going on after another artist with a star very much on the rise, Luke Jackson. As it was performing a duet with Luke performed a delightful bridge from his more blues sound into the wonderful vocal harmonies of Ange and her looper, but that was still to come in the second half.
Steve Pledger opened up the night and from the moment he struck the first chord, you knew it was going to be a special night. Steve is a man that writes strong songs and performs them in a way that makes singer and song easy to relate to, easy to feel empathy with and whilst most of the guests only performed two songs, you could definitely feel the quality and never mind the width.
Lukas Drinkwater, on loan from 3 Daft Monkeys, amongst others, showed that when it comes to him being front and centre, he's definitely no slouch and if the album that's rumoured to be emerging towards the end of this year, beginning of next matches the quality of the pair of songs that delighted us tonight, it's going to be something very special indeed.
Something very special indeed, is a phrase that could have been written just to encapsulate Ange Hardy, who through talent and hard work burst onto the folk scene with her previous album, "Barefoot Folk" and has used that talent to build up a real head of steam for "The Lament Of The Black Sheep".
"Something very special indeed, is a phrase that could have been written just to encapsulate Ange Hardy, who through talent and hard work burst onto the folk scene"
I had the honour of welcoming Ange Hardy to the stage and then to watch from the wings as she walked to the microphone to strong and warm applause. I always find that it is the mark of a top artist that when they've strapped their instrument of choice on, the audience hush in expectation with needing to be gestured to do so.
There is a journey across the wider narrative of both the new album and Ange's performances generally and tonight that journey was enhanced by the addition of the band. Having started solo, with songs that feel more intimate, the band provide an aural landscape for her to weave the tales around. It was definitely unexpected, but sounded spot on.
As Ange and the band drew the first half to a close, I thought they were employing the adage of leaving them wanting more, but a glanced at my watch confirmed it was time flying by when you're enjoying yourself, or perhaps a bit of both. Either way, rather than kicking back, the band joined the audience in the bar for some meet and greet time.
By coincidence both of the acts starting off the second half, Jemima Farey and Luke Jackson have featured on the Fatea Showcase Sessions, worryingly, if you add their ages up, I'd still have a few years on them and both are real talents, showing songwriting and performance beyond their years.
Jemima had a glitch with her guitar at the start that I've seen knock experienced musicians out of their stride, but she just laughed it off and carried on like it was second nature. Whilst the songs follow regular themes of partnership, there is a definite maturity in the writing that identifies ms Farey as one to keep an eye on as she manages to find interesting perspectives to explore.
Luke Jackson has already established himself as an artist that delivers both on record and through his live performances. He's an artist that gives 100% of himself on stage, something particularly noticeable when he's performing his more blues inspired numbers. I don't know how he does it, but somewhere behind the facade of youth, is an old man who has lived many lives and had many experiences and somehow he manages to condense that into two songs before calling Ange Hardy to the stage to join him in a duet, to which only the word sublime can really be attached.
"an emotional rollercoaster ride that at times reduced part of the audience and almost Ange herself to tears, with a powerful song about her family. I think she was only saved by her band coming on at that point"
Ange's second set was an emotional rollercoaster ride that at times reduced part of the audience and almost Ange herself to tears, with a powerful song about her family. I think she was only saved by her band coming on at that point and giving her an immediate and different focus and dynamic, something it took the audience a little longer to find, but all were picked up and dusted off before the midpoint of that next number.
This was a performance and show that we will all cherish for many a long time, the finale had all the performers on stage and all deservedly taking a bow together. Naturally there was time for one more sparkling highlight, the encore, just Ange, her voice and a lullaby to soothe us on our way, at least until we reached the bar, where all of the artists saw cds being exchanged for good hard cash, but without a doubt the real star of the night was Ange Hardy and "The Lament Of The Black Sheep"
"This was a performance and show that we will all cherish for many a long time"
The Sonic Bandwagon strap line, ‘Underground Music Uncovered’ has never been more apt as I drive through the fog shrouded Somerset countryside in full Autumnal darkness, searching out the village hall in rural Curry Rivel. My quest, Ange Hardy and Steve Pledger’s ‘Just Passing Through’ tour , which circumnavigates the South Western County throughout October and November. A closed road and a slow moving breakdown truck try to thwart my journey, although I arrive with seconds to spare before the evening begins. I must admit, my initial focus had been Ange, with both myself and fellow Sonic Bandwagon presenter Mike Ainscoe having featured tracks on the show from her latest album, ‘The Lament of the Black Sheep,’ receiving an exceptional reception since release in folk circles.
Initially though, it’s Steve Pledger who appears in front of the black backdrop for the first of two half hourish sets, flanked by Ange Hardy banners extolling the virtues of her latest album and the previous release, ‘Barefoot Folk.’ Perhaps Steve needs to focus on a marketing budget for future shows……
But marketing isn’t everything, and Pledger immediately endears himself to a modest, although appreciative crowd with his beautifully observed lyrics and deft guitar work, accompanied by in the main, jovial and self-effacing banter. The quality of song writing, apparent throughout the set, effortlessly expresses a range of emotions, readily producing heart wrenching and tear inducing aspects through new songs such as ‘Friends and Rivals’, which deals with parental absence, before touching the edges of protest, bastardising the title of Woody Guthries ‘This Land is Your Land’ during his second appearance, proclaiming ‘This Land is Pound Land.’ I don’t enjoy comparing Pledger with Frank Turner, but it’s almost impossible not to, although with far more depth and feeling. A Turner for the common man perhaps!
Steve describes himself as a hippy with a follicle problem, and while his lack of cranial coverage may preclude him appearance wise, his ideas and beliefs pitch him in the midst of such an association. ‘Inconvenient and Beautiful’, from the’14 Good Intentions’ album, with the message of nature’s ability to usurp technical advances is a perfect example. However, it’s when Pledger lays himself emotively bare that he’s at his utmost best. A story he tells before ‘Love, Bess,’ outlines an ability to observe life from the outside, having some twenty five years ago seen an in memorial piece of writing in a newspaper he cut out and has kept in his wallet , so touched by the words written. More recently, playing around with a piece of music and looking for words as accompaniment, he based the lyrics on those from the paper, producing a song of breath taking beauty which the story behind makes even more powerful.
One of the joys of live music is discovering new artists, and the adage, ‘always turn up early to gigs’ has never been more relevant. Steve Pledger is a blissful find.
If Steve Pledger wears his heart readily on his sleeve, Ange Hardy’s shines like a neon light from the middle of her forehead. This, a young woman who has experienced life at the rough end including living homeless on the streets of Dublin and close personal loss, literally too much to relate here, although I would urge you visit http://www.angehardy.com/about-ange-hardy which allows an insight into not only her life, but the context around which much of her music revolves. Ange hopes her songs and the life stories inspire hope in others who may be experiencing their own trials and tribulations, for which there’s every possibility when told in such a captivating manner.
She opens proceedings with a haunting A Capella version of the traditional Irish folk song, ‘She Moves Through the Fair,’ projecting an exquisite purity of vocal around the silent room. The only additional sound is that of the church bell tolling in the miasma enveloped streets.
Although the majority of Ange’s sets involve deeply personal and poignant songs taken from both ‘The Lament of the Black Sheep’ and ‘Barefoot Folk’ albums, there are also injections of humour. The playful ‘Crafty Father John’ extolls the virtues of a Priest who keeps a close eye on Facebook pages to ensure parishioners are truly confessing their sins, rather than suggesting their worst depravity of the week amounts to purchasing non Fair Trade coffee. We are also introduced to Mr Miyagi, a loop machine, used to provide vocal harmonies throughout. Perhaps the constant click as Mr Miyagi waxes on and off is slightly less than harmonious in the surroundings, but that’s probably just me splitting hairs over an otherwise exquisitely delivered performance. The highlight, ‘Heaven Waits’, is an elegy to a brother sadly deceased, outlining both the intensely delicate nature of her lyricism in conjunction with melodic allure.
While significant contrasts between Ange Hardy and Steve Pledger are readily apparent throughout, it closes with both entwining their vocals harmoniously together. This emphasises compatibility and familiarity as both artists and friends, with a final tongue in cheek reference to the purchasing of CD’s over at the merch table bringing a light hearted ending to a profoundly moving live music experience.
I’d urge anyone with even a passing interest in folk and acoustic music to venture out for the ‘Just Passing Through,’ tour, still numerous opportunities around Somerset over the coming weeks.
Reviewer: Andy Barnes, Sonic Bandwagon
"Ange Hardy is an artist that I've wanted to see live since she emerged chrysalis like and spectacularly on the folk scene in 2013 with her second album, "Barefoot Folk" that saw her drifting across from being a singer-songwriter to an artist firmly affiliated with the folk camp.
"Ange's bursting onto the scene last year wasn't just down to her extraordinary talent as both a writer and performer, but also her willingness to put in the graft."
Ange's bursting onto the scene last year wasn't just down to her extraordinary talent as both a writer and performer, but also her willingness to put in the graft. Not only is she a true creative in her craft, she realises that in order for that to be truly appreciated, you need to make sure that you're being heard and read about, so she put a lot of hard work into making sure that she was being heard and talked about by getting herself in front of writers and presenters and getting played.
"she picked up female vocalist of the year from this very magazine"
Along the way she picked up female vocalist of the year from this very magazine, not only for her performance on "Barefoot Folk", but also for her live performances, something until this moment I had yet to see, so my anticipation was very much at a high and very quickly rewarded.
Ange Hardy's set consisted of songs from both "Barefoot Folk" and her new album, "Lament Of The Black Sheep" which though not officially launched until the Autumn has already had a soft release to wide acclaim. The response to both was incredible; it looks like 2014 will see her building on the success that she has worked so hard to establish. Talent and graft a fearsome combination."
Reviewer : Neil King, FATEA Magazine