There is not a weak track among the 14 on Somerset singer-songwriter Ange Hardy's album The Lament of the Black Sheep.
Hardy has a lovely voice – sweet and expressive – which brought her the Female Vocalist of the Year 2013 Award from Fatea Magazine.
This, her third studio album, is bursting with interesting storytelling songs, as she perfectly balances the strengths of traditional folk music with fresh writing, which neither seems like pastiche or cloying imitation.
"she perfectly balances the strengths of traditional folk music with fresh writing"
I think the reason the songs are so full of colour and resonance is that Hardy has poured her own memories and characters into them (you can see that emotion even in the moving dedication to her Poppa Willis in the sleeve notes). The title track is strangely pleasant melancholy, in a re-working of the classic nursery rhyme Baa Baa (you know the rest), along with clever new songs on old themes such as ghosts (The Young Librarian), the pride of working the land (The Tilling Bird), and partings (The Sailor’s Farewell).
There's wit, too, especially in The Woolgatherer:
I am a young mother, a mother of two,
For I courted a farm hand my father knew.
He was tall and trim, and fit as an ox,
But he wasn't the sharpest of tools in the box.
Hardy is supported by a classy band, comprising James Findlay (vocals, fiddle) Lukas Drinkwater (double bass, backing vocals) Jon Dyer (flute, whistle) and Alex Cumming (accordion, backing vocals). Not forgetting Jo May (percussion), who even plays the spoons. An appropriate 'instrument' for a truly fine folk album that serves up so many treats.
Ange Hardy's new album is a collection of her own songs which sound as if they might be traditional. These are proper folk songs about sailors, farmers, ghosts, a gambler and, er, a librarian. Most compelling are the songs that Ange has written about her own intriguing backstory in Somerset and Ireland. Ange has a good voice, effectively multi-tracking to create harmonies, and sensitively fingerpicks guitar. She is helped out by a cast of friends from the West Country, including the excellent James Findlay whose voice and fiddle loom large on several tracks.
"a collection of her own songs which sound as if they might be traditional. These are proper folk songs"
The fourteen songs combine interesting stories with strong tunes and very singable choruses. 'The Lament of The Black Sheep' is a retelling of the nursery rhyme 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' inspired by an innocent simplification made by her two-year-old son. 'The Woolgatherer' is a whimsical piece about an absent-minded girl who walks within range of her father's muck spreading. 'The Lullaby' carries the age-old plea, 'go to sleep now little one' made through gritted teeth.
"a fine album immersed in the tradition, but with a modem perspective"
The Lament Of The Black Sheep is a fine album immersed in the tradition, but with a modem perspective and some very insightful tales from Ange Hardy's personal experiences.
Reviewer : Ian Croft, R2 Magazine
A new name to this reviewer, this is folk singer-songwriter Ange Hardy’s second album, and it is an impressive beast indeed. Everything is original but it has deep roots in traditional music and in our collective past. James Findlay and Lukas Drinkwater are amongst the supporting cast but it is very much Hardy’s album. She sings of poachers, sailors and struggling Somerset farmers, telling universal tales that are no less relevant today for being set in the past. She also sings of herself, of her child and her troubled childhood and again, these are songs that will resonate with the listener rather than just standard heart on sleeve fare.
"An album that marks the arrival of a new star in the folk firmament."
Her voice has delicacy and she’s a quiet, thoughtful singer but her voice also has an inner strength that keeps it from being twee. Standouts there are none, everything is good, but “The Raising And The Letting Go”, a sympathetic and emotional story of single parenting and the classically styled “The Tilling Bird” perhaps sneak a little ahead of the others. The tunes are beautiful, the lyrics painful, the effect magical. An album that marks the arrival of a new star in the folk firmament.
Reviewer : Americana UK
Ever since the release of Bare Foot Folk (2013), Ange Hardy has been ever growing more and more in popularity and when you hear the latest release, The Lament of the Black Sheep, it is very easy to see why. Ange clearly wanted to top her last album and has devoted even more time and hard work along with gathering an ensemble of talented musicians including Lukas Drinkwater (3 Daft Monkeys) and Alex Cumming (The Teacups) to help raise the bar.
"a wonderfully written and arranged album which does the task that folk music loves to perform, and that is telling stories"
The result is a wonderfully written and arranged album which does the task that folk music loves to perform, and that is telling stories. Ange is very open in the sleeve notes about some of her history and uses tracks such as ‘The Darling Lassie’ and ‘The Lost Soul’ to tell her audiences these very personal stories. This element adds strongly to the beautiful vocals and playing presented by all involved, and works hard to build up a bigger connection than simply being singer and listener.
There is a strong similarity of style to Bare Foot Folk, which is helping to make Ange very recognisable as an artist, but her method of telling deep and exciting tales in her music means no two songs are ever repetitive, everything is new and different.
"A great follow-up album and the future is certainly bright!"
As well as the personal stories there is a good mix of general folk-type stories too, designed to inspire and pass on messages like all good tales. ‘The Wanting Wife’ makes you value what you have in your life, while ‘The Foolish Heir’ teaches you to be blooming careful! Even true sorrowful tales such as ‘The Sailor’s Farewell’ are thought provoking as they are wonderful pieces of music.
A great follow-up album and the future is certainly bright!
Reviewer : Paul Rawcliffe, English Dance & Song Magazine (www.efdss.co.uk)
Being described by Mike Harding as “one of the bright stars of the new wave of folk singers” serves as both an impressive introduction and testimonial. That’s particularly the case in the current climate when folk music seems to be the new black and when the genre is literally bursting at the seams with a glut of incredibly talented new musicians and voices.
For her latest effort, Ange Hardy has gathered (for that read: written, arranged, recorded and produced) a collection of original songs which have been inspired by family, tradition and personal experience - songs of West Somerset heritage and stories of working the land.
"there’s a deeply personal feel to the whole package, with the songs including all sorts of reference to Ange’s family. In fact, the CD booklet is a bit of a gem"
With the cover art featuring a photograph of her Great Grandfather on the same West Somerset farm as the photos taken for the booklet, there’s a deeply personal feel to the whole package, with the songs including all sorts of reference to Ange’s family. In fact, the CD booklet is a bit of a gem, containing not only the lyrics but also brief notes on the origins and backgrounds to the songs which add to the homely and organic feel which permeates this project.
Having received the accolade of being FATEA’s Female Vocalist Of The Year following her Bare Foot Folk album released in 2013, the early reviews for The Lament Of The Black Sheep have been most favourable. So - does the album get the Bright Young Folk seal of approval?
"this is a startling piece of work. Forty five minutes of beautifully crafted and performed music"
Never ones to jump on the bandwagon, but this is a startling piece of work. Forty five minutes of beautifully crafted and performed music and it’s simply just a treat to sit back and let the whole Lament experience wash over you a few times before delving deeper into the songs.
In surrounding herself with a set of musicians who have been able to interpret her musical visions in a subtle and sensitive manner, it’s also a case of hats off to James Findlay on vocals and fiddle, Lukas Drinkwater on double bass, Jon Dyer on flute, Alex Cumming on accordion and Jo May on percussion for what they bring to the project and helping realise the subtle beauty of what Ange has crafted.
Throughout the album there are all manner of subtle touches: the spoons played at the end of The Raising And The Letting Go, a song about the special relationship between a child and its parents and its journey into adult independence, were created from the melted debris of bombs dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War. There are also many references to Ange’s own son Luke, the album closing with a lullaby for him as well as his inspiring the title track from his own version of the famous rhyme.
As well as the songs which resonate with deep personal meanings, there are those which pay tribute to more traditional folk themes; the call of the sea looms large in The Bow To The Sailor and The Sailor’s Farewell; there are ghosts, poachers, pilgrimages and the almost obligatory tale of the unsuspecting maiden drowned by her demon lover. Oh, and chickens - depending on how you interpret The Tilling Bird; either as a simple love song or a tribute to the Marsh Daisy, it being the UK’s rarest breed of chicken.
It seems a bit churlish to pick out any individual songs or performances for the album works best as a whole - the album very much a journey, although personal favourites start to appear after repeated listenings - The Gambler’s Lot and The Daring Lassie are early highlights while the gentle pace of The Tilling Bird and the slow build into a lively outro is a personal favourite.
"the name of Ange Hardy and her Lament Of The Black Sheep are going to feature prominently on the end of year Best Of’s"
What’s apparent though is that the name of Ange Hardy and her Lament Of The Black Sheep are going to feature prominently on the end of year Best Of’s - get your money down now.
With a natural story tellers gift, a gorgeous voice and a growing confidence in her songcraft The Lament Of The Black Sheep puts Ange Hardy at the forefront of the British folk scene.
"The Lament Of The Black Sheep puts Ange Hardy at the forefront of the British folk scene."
It was with her last album Bare Foot Folk that Ange Hardy really started to carve out her niche in the current folk scene. Released in May last year, the album immediately drew critical acclaim across press and radio and importantly for Ange, enjoyed the support of Mike Harding, who returned to it again and again, regularly featuring tracks on his show. This and more, has fed into the making of the follow up The Lament Of The Black Sheep, which builds nicely on the promise of its predecessor delivering an exceptionally finely crafted set of songs that posses an elegant, amaranthine quality.
Ange generously credits many of those who have given their supporting the sleeve notes, making a special mention of Mike Harding, who injected a much needed confidence boost with his obvious support. Given her story it’s perhaps easy to see why Ange treats that as so significant. She makes no bones of her past as a teenage runaway, who spent some time living rough in Dublin and Galway. It was here that someone first gave her a guitar so that she could try busking rather than begging. The seeds were planted and with time on her hands, she taught herself to play the instrument. It was abandoned again, however, when she returned across the Irish Sea, to Exeter where she continued to live out her wild side.
At 18 Ange found herself pregnant and started a major recalibration of her life, embracing motherhood with the same zest as she had for her previous hedonistic pursuits. Once more Ange found she had time on her hands and picked up the guitar again and began the process of finding a songwriting voice. Some tentative tryouts at open mic sessions proved surprisingly rewarding, but it wasn’t until she met her husband Rob that things really took shape. It was with his encouragement that she started to tell her story and write a first batch of songs that charted her experiences. It led to her first tour, billed as Story In Song, as she explored her own life story, with the cathartic release that writing about it gave. Ultimately the songs solidified into her debut album, Windmills And Wishes, but the arrival of a second child necessitated another pause in the building of Ange’s musical career.
"She follows the tendrils of narrative and imagination and in doing so draws on to the story telling and ballad traditions of folksong with a natural honesty that both nourishes and feeds off the traditions"
Again using her spare time wisely, Ange worked on her songcraft and started to broaden the scope of her writing. She describes her second album Bare Foot Folk as laying down the roots, while the new album The Lament Of The Black Sheep is about exploring the soil around them. She follows the tendrils of narrative and imagination and in doing so draws on to the story telling and ballad traditions of folksong with a natural honesty that both nourishes and feeds off the traditions. It reveals a growing confidence in her own abilities and it’s for this that Ange’s gratitude for those who have been supportive is so clearly and truly felt. Mike, and many others for justified praise, but especially Rob, who played a major role in focusing her abundant creativity and who plays a significant role in the new record too.
While she is determinedly looking outside her own experience with the new record, there is still something very personal about it. The cover makes use of a picture of her grandfather on a farm near where Ange spent her early years. The booklet then blends old and new pictures from on or around that land, with images spanning around 100 years. Perhaps the analogy of the roots and surrounding soil can also be extended to Ange settling down and establishing her own home back in Somerset after many years of seemingly rootless wandering. Many of the songs and stories of The Lament Of The Black Sheep have a strong sense of place and belonging to them, although some are also about leaving, with one specifically about Ange’s journey to Ireland.
"Ange’s guitar technique and especially her voice are also major factors in the spectacular success of The Lament Of The Black Sheep."
It’s not just the superb quality of the songs, however, that make this such a strong record. Ange’s guitar technique and especially her voice are also major factors in the spectacular success of The Lament Of The Black Sheep. For a while Ange has used loops as part of her live performance, to create layers of vocal harmony and the studio allows free rein to develop this stunning effect. Ange is also supported by a notable cast of guests, with James Findlay on fiddle, Lukas Drinkwater on double bass, flute and whistle from Jon Dyer, the accordion of Alex Cumming and Jo May adding percussion and spoons. James, Lukas and Alex also add their voices, which add to the layers of Ange’s sweet harmonies providing valuable counterpoint and earthing the heavenly melodies.
The song and style combine perfectly on the opener, The Bow To The Sailor, which sounds for all the world like a traditional arrangement, as the ensemble sing the repeated motif of, “Oh for the winds they, they blow, Oh for the winds they blow. The bow to the sailor it does call, Oh for the winds they blow.” The verses drop away to just Ange’s voice, but as described above, layered in gorgeous harmony. It’s one of two songs directly about sailors and looks at the call of the sea for honest toil or duty and the pretty girls and more left behind. The other is The Sailor’s Farewell, a moving story that Ange picked up from an audience member, about a mother’s ritual of alternating two pictures in the same place each time her husband set sail. One was a sailor’s farewell and the other represented return, but tragedy intervened and that second picture remained unhung.
Naturally enough, however, most of these songs are about the land, although in some cases it’s the struggle to hang on to your little bit of it. As she points out in The Gamblers Lot, generations can farm the same acreage, but if the stakes are high enough, all it takes is foolhardy risk or speculation to put the continuity and the life that goes with it at risk. Such is the avarice of The Wanting Wife, who sends her husband out poaching and thieving. It’s a sprightly tune taken a cappella and the verses also feature James Findlay, but here the song at least offers a chance of redemption and a happy outcome. It’s denied to The Foolish Heir, an unfortunate lassie duped and drowned by a false lover and destined to roam her father’s land as a ghost, while Ange’s guitar suggests the babbling stream that is her final resting place.
Then there are ghosts in The Young Librarian, although this song is about how people live on through their writing and how the stories gathered here have made Ange’s mark on the passage of time. Her journey features in The Daring Lassie and is the first time Ange has tackled that aspect of her own life and the actual journey that took her to Ireland. It’s sung as a duet with James this time taking the male part and finds a nice blend of romance and hardship. The Lost Soul marks the end of her journey and turns that hardship and feeling of being cast adrift into a sense of hope. The Raising And The Letting Go adds a poignant note to the story, with a mother’s recognition that her own children will one day fly the nest.
The animals of the land also feature and The Cull brings the farm life up to date with the complexities of bovine TB. The Tilling Bird refers to a chicken following a plough searching for treats that are turned up, but in doing so, also helping to turn the soil, but it is also a metaphor for love. Given the title there are of course sheep and The Woolgatherer is a wry tale that points out the perils of daydreaming and not having your mind on the job, especially when that job is muck spreading. Then there’s the title track, a gorgeous rewrite of the nursery rhyme, which examines the wisdom of surrendering all that you own.
Finally there is the closing The Lullaby, which is a simple enough appeal to a young child to sleep. It offers a beautifully tender and lovingly enveloping tune, again taken a cappella, which as any parent will recognise is also laced with the frustration that restless children can bring. As Ange’s own son, Luke, was two and half while this record was being made, it makes you wonder whether this tune was tried out in situ, but if music has the power to soothe then surely this delightful vignette does.
"Even if her own journey has been the road less commonly travelled, Ange has found her place at the forefront of the story telling folksong tradition. Welcome home."
The arrangements through the record are deceptively simple, with voices very much to the fore, but with little embellishments as required. Ange’s capacity to find a harmony or counterpoint and the skilful layering of vocal lines, however, is something really special. The songs meanwhile weave a tapestry of place, time, journey and belonging, common threads that bind us all, with our hopes, needs and desires shared whatever route we take in life. Even if her own journey has been the road less commonly travelled, Ange has found her place at the forefront of the story telling folksong tradition. Welcome home.
I've been reviewing albums for well over twenty five years and this type of review still scares the hell out of me. Album's like Ange Hardy's "The Lament Of The Black Sheep" are a genuinely once in a blue moon album and how do you review that without, a: coming across like a gushing imbecile or b: over egging the pudding? I guess by sticking to the facts, but apologies if my enthusiasm gets the better of me, I have tried holding back on this review a bit, but every time I hear it I just want to shout its praises, quite simply it's an album that starts off on a high and just keeps growing.
"Album's like Ange Hardy's "The Lament Of The Black Sheep" are a genuinely once in a blue moon album"
"The Lament Of The Black Sheep" is an album that references folk heroes old and new, whilst at all times remaining a firmly Ange Hardy cut. Part of the reason for that is Ange's absolutely incredible voice which sounds as if were created for folk music. Sweet and honeyed when it needs to be hard and hitting as appropriate, constantly delivering a quality narrative, that not only captures the story, but also the elemental quality.
"I just want to shout its praises, quite simply it's an album that starts off on a high and just keeps growing"
Whilst called "The Lament Of The Black Sheep" and graced with a sleeve and booklet that draws extensively on her family archive of farming and provided inspiration for a number of songs on the album, there is also a nautical theme that runs through the album, the bizarre thing is that for the former Ange's voice has an earthy quality to it, which seems to take on a saltier spirit when referring to songs of the sea. It really adds to the character of the album.
It's an album that feels very traditional, it is a folk album in the accepted sense, but it's also an album that adds fourteen brand new songs to that canon with Ange penning all of the songs on the album. It also fulfils the Fatea folk criteria of being a history lesson, a geography lesson and a murder or two, with one of the protagonists being that most dangerous of beings, the mild mannered librarian.
"it is a folk album in the accepted sense, but it's also an album that adds fourteen brand new songs to that canon"
This is also an album that has light and grey, there is humour in the album, "The Woolgatherer" is a song that I feel is destined to become a club favourite with its tongue in cheek humour, that once again is supported by a really strong narrative and provides a break from sadder elements in the album.
There is a broader approach to the album, a use of other musicians, including James Findlay, Alex Cumming and Lukas Drinkwater, Ange's trademark looping as well as vocal only renditions. Similarly the album ranges from variations of lullabies and nursery rhymes, through to songs of life and journey and inevitable loss, something particularly poignant when there isn't a body to bury.
"not only is she an incredible vocalist, she is also damned fine with the pen, the result is songs that could move a statue"
As many readers will know, narrative and character are what does it for me and this is an album that seems to charge both body and spirit. It's an album you can lose yourself in and similarly one that you can also find yourself in. Ange Hardy has really burst onto the scene in the last couple of years, there's a reason for that, not only is she an incredible vocalist, she is also damned fine with the pen, the result is songs that could move a statue. "The Lament Of The Black Sheep" is an album that is already timeless and I honestly can't see any reason why that would change. If a cd could become an heirloom, this would be the one.
"If a cd could become an heirloom, this would be the one."
Reviewer : Neil King, FATEA Magazine
The third studio album from our deservedly award-winning West Somerset-based singer and songwriter Ange forms a logical continuance of, and provides a conscious sense of artistic development from, its predecessors. Before placing this disc in the player, I rated album number two, Bare Foot Folk, very highly, but even that ranking has been blown away at once with the fresh, airy breeze on which The Lament Of The Black Sheep coasts in.
The album’s a well-considered sequence of songs that forms an exploration of the very soil that surrounds the roots which Ange so tellingly exposed on Bare Foot Folk.
These roots grow deep in folk tradition, whether in song or story (or both), as manifested in the heritage, occupations, trades and industries which sprung out of it or in family concerns and experiences arising out of living with or amidst the traditions of rural life; some, inevitably, have more than a ring of autobiographical truth too, but never in the sense of navel-gazing or potentially embarrassing revelation that forms such a trap for the unwary or misguided songwriter.
"Ange’s writing displays an enviable sensitivity in tandem with a simple poetry in its delicacy of imagery"
Ange’s writing displays an enviable sensitivity in tandem with a simple poetry in its delicacy of imagery, as its impressive diversity of expression and subject-matter transports us from the storm-tossed opener The Bow To The Sailor through to the aching wistful beauty of The Sailor’s Farewell via the contrasted bleak simplicity of the retold nursery-rhyme of the CD’s title song; from the thoughtful, conscientious consideration of The Gambler’s Lot to the cheeky a cappella of The Wanting Wife and the seductive lure of The Foolish Heir; from the genial lilt of the ploughing rhythm in The Tilling Bird to the unusually animated, yet quite enchanting, modern example of The Lullaby that soothingly and fittingly closes the disc.
Ange writes so very authentically in the spirit and letter of folk tradition that in many cases you’d be hard pressed to distinguish her creations from the “genuine article” – not that it necessarily matters, of course, in the scheme of things.
Ange’s own wonderful, characterful singing provides both the lead vocal lines and the supporting layers of imaginative and well-judged self-harmonisation, while she’s given a further boost when joined in duet mode by the complementary voice of James Findlay, as on The Wanting Wife and The Daring Lassie.
The modest instrumental backdrops bring on board sparing yet uncannily effective contributions from the above-credited James Findlay (fiddle), along with Lukas Drinkwater (double bass), Alex Cumming (accordion), Jon Dyer (flute, whistle) and Jo May (percussion, spoons).
"extremely well sung and extremely attractively presented (nay, a work of art): it’s a really special record"
The Lament Of The Black Sheep is a most charming release, extremely well sung and extremely attractively presented (nay, a work of art): it’s a really special record which should bring Ange’s profile to the forefront and win her many more admirers.
Reviewer : David Kidman, The Living Tradition
Her second album in as many years after returning to the folk scene following time off to raise two kids, Hardy expands the sparse voice and guitar sound of Bare Foot Folk by introducing fiddle, double bass, flute, whistles, accordion and percussion on another 14-strong acoustic set of self-penned numbers that sound as they could have been in some dusty archive of traditional folk ballads.
"another 14-strong acoustic set of self-penned numbers that sound as they could have been in some dusty archive of traditional folk ballads."
She says they’re inspired by family (the cover photo is of her great-grandfather on his farm), tradition, personal experience and tales of West Somerset, with songs of heritage and of working the land. That said, she’s all at sea with the opening track, ‘The Bow To The Sailor’, a stirring shanty about the call of the sea and the feelings it invokes in men with salt in their veins. She’s firmly on dry land for the title track retelling of the nursery rhyme from the sheep’s perspective, a bleak reinterpretation about giving way everything you own and being left cold and alone, a metaphor that you could apply equally to King Lear or parenthood.
‘The Gambler’s Lot’ is one of the specifically Somerset songs, a lament for the way the sweat of generations to build a rural foundation could be swept away by one person’s foolish actions, her voice looped to provide close harmony backing on the chorus, but then it’s on to deeply personal territory as ‘The Daring Lassie’ recounts her running away from a Somerset care home to travel to Ireland, living rough in Dublin and Galway under an assumed name, a spirited duet with fiddle player James Findlay with the sort of refrain designed for club singalongs. She returns to the theme for ‘The Lost Soul’ as, to a stark, almost medieval arrangement, she recalls the end of her time in Ireland and the open-heart epiphany of the mistakes made and lessons learned.
"Daring Lassie’ recounts her running away from a Somerset care home to travel to Ireland, living rough in Dublin and Galway under an assumed name, a spirited duet with fiddle player James Findlay with the sort of refrain designed for club singsongs"
‘The Sailor’s Farewell’ is the second of the album’s nautical numbers, a poignant song inspired by a story told her by a man at one of her concerts, about how his mother, Mabel, would hang a picture called The Sailor’s Farewell when her husband went to sea and one called The Sailor’s Return when he came home. Except that, on one fateful voyage, she was never to rehang the second picture.
Being a folk album there are, of course, songs about foolish or unfortunate women. An unaccompanied duet between Hardy and Findlay, ‘The Wanting Wife’ recounts how a woman sends her husband out poaching and thieving to bring back her weight in gold only to realise he was her real treasure while, again using vocal loops and backed solely by rippling guitar, ‘The Foolish Heir’ tells of a girl lured with promises of a new life overseas only to be drowned on her father’s land by her false lover, fated to wander the place she wanted to escape as a ghost. There’s ghosts the haunting ‘The Young Librarian’ too, a multi-tracked vocal, a song supposedly about how people live on through their writing, but very much couched in horror imagery.
Three numbers relate to the farming life, all with very different tones. As you might surmise from the title, accompanied by melancholic flute, ‘The Cull’ isn’t exactly cheery. Inspired by the sight of someone protesting against a badger cull, dressed up as a badger, it tackles the serious problem of culling infected cows to save the herd and how those who do not live by the land often do not understand the demands it makes. On a rather lighter note, The lilting swayalong ‘The Tilling Bird’ uses the image of how chickens (here the rare Marsh Daisy) were used to follow the plough to help turn the soil to serve as a metaphor for love while, in decidedly playful mood, ‘The Woolgatherer’ is a delightful tumble of a song about how daydreaming is probably not recommended when you’re muck spreading. Again, you can imagine this as a club crowd participation number.
The final two songs return to motherhood. With accordion intro and featuring Jo May on spoons (made from the melted debris of bombs dropped in the Vietnam War, apparently), ‘The Raising And The Letting Go’ is a tribute to her own mother who raised her pretty much on her own as well as a recognition that your children with eventually fly the nest while the final number, the short and sweet a capella ‘The Lullaby’, was written for her two-year old son, an encouragement for him to go to sleep with which all parents will sympathise.
"this firmly consolidates her position as one of the finest contemporary-traditional voices in the field,"
If last year’s album marked a triumphant return to the folk world, this firmly consolidates her position as one of the finest contemporary-traditional voices in the field, and were I Eliza Carthy or Cara Dillon I’d be looking over my shoulder very carefully.
Listening to Ange Hardy’s songs always seems to evoke some distant memories. Times and places once faded away return to life again. At once you’re walking the dusty corridors of heritage and hearing its spirits rise towards today. Moving on from her debut album Bare Foot Folk, on her latest album she delivers another striking collection of self-penned songs that retain and amplify the edge of inheritance - ‘The Lament of The Black Sheep’ offers original, living songs bathed in echoes of deeply felt tradition.
"‘The Lament of The Black Sheep’ offers original, living songs bathed in echoes of deeply felt tradition."
From the presence and potency of the opener ‘The Bow to The Sailor’ through a gently inventive interpretation of the classic nursery rhyme with ‘The Lament of The Black Sheep’ to the desperate understanding and sorrowful refusal of ‘The Gambler’s Lot’there’s a journey through contrasting influences and expressions. This album delivers cautionary tales, relates sad stories, clarifies simple virtues and lays bare tender poetry blended with stirring melodies – ‘The Daring Lassie’ is a personal and expressive tale, there’s deeply-felt loss within ‘The Sailor’s Farewell’, gentle perceptive humour striding through ‘The Woolgatherer’ while the soft empathy of ‘The Raising and The Letting Go’ is a simple delight.
Ange Hardy adopts an approach to her music that mixes a fine appreciation of personal examination, a reflection of heritage and its entwining roots, with the ability to turn its anecdotes into words and music that make statements impossible to ignore. You only have to listen to ‘The Lament of The Black Sheep’ to hear the living heart of folk music beating throughout.
"You only have to listen to ‘The Lament of The Black Sheep’ to hear the living heart of folk music beating throughout."
Playing alongside Ange Hardy on ‘The Lament of The Black Sheep’ are James Findlay (vocals, fiddle) Lukas Drinkwater (double bass, backing vocals) Jon Dyer (flute, whistle) Alex Cumming (accordion, backing vocals) and Jo May (percussion, spoons).
Ange Hardy seems to have seized something of a zeitgeist in the current English folk scene, her debut 'Bare Foot Folk' managed to slot into a pastoral groove without coming across as contrived or overtly twee. Her follow up is 'The Lament of the Black Sheep' which builds on the strong foundations of her debut.
"Her follow up is 'The Lament of the Black Sheep' which builds on the strong foundations of her debut."
You can detect a growing confidence in the arrangements as she carves out her own space. The songs all take their inspiration from the traditions and hard graft of rural life in the past. On the front cover there is a picture of her great grandfather at work on a west Somerset farm, along with that image the songs on the album offer a window into a vanished age.
The songs are so immersive that you end up yearning for that vanished age, maybe it is an unrealistic rural idyll, but nonetheless it is an appealing vista that hardy conjures up.
"The songs are so immersive that you end up yearning for that vanished age, maybe it is an unrealistic rural idyll"
She has a fine set of musicians performing on the album, James Findlay in particular lends his vocals that contrast brilliantly with Hardy's. With Findlay's fiddle, Lukas Drinkwater on bass, Jon Dyer on flute and whistle, Alex Cumming on accordion and Jo May on percussion there is quite a band assembled.
Reviewer : Spiral Earth
Ange Hardy's second CD Barefoot Folk (May 2013) played a major part in FATEA magazine naming the Somerset folk singer as its female vocalist of the year. The album is magically simplistic; a collection of self-penned, pure acoustic songs stripped right back to get the stories through. This first foray into more traditional folk earned her deserved praise, and as a result, her next release Lament of the Black Sheep has been eagerly awaited.
Pre-release copies have now landed on doormats - and it's pleasing to discover that the album doesn't disappoint on any level.
"it's pleasing to discover that the album doesn't disappoint on any level. "
Picking up where Bare Foot Folk left off, Lament of the Black Sheep's themes are firmly set in British roots. Thought-provoking lyrics are sensitively intertwined with intricate harmonies, and whistles, drums and fiddles have been added to create a faraway - almost mythical - depth to certain songs.
As Mike Harding said, "Ange Hardy writes new songs which sometimes sound for all the world as though they are in fact deeply traditional." Very true. Yet they are all underpinned by the rich experience of her own life story: a common thread which runs through all three of her albums but adds to, rather than detracts from, the material. It also helps her to empathise with the characters she writes about - some fictional, others traditional and a few based upon real people who have told her tales that she has picked up on.
Where Lament of the Black Sheep differs most is in the addition of some of the finest musicians on the 'new folk' scene. Ange has recruited contemporaries James Findlay, Lukas Drinkwater, Jon Dyer, Alex Cumming and Jo May as a full supporting cast - and the combination works beautifully. The powerful'Bow to The Sailor' (available as a single) which opens the album sets out the stall for what's to come.The Daring Lassie has a blend of James' and Ange's voices with a driving rhythm and a memorable melody. The Sailors Farewell is haunting, and there is wry humour in tracks such as Woolgathering.Frankly, each song has something new to offer - nothing falls short - although some will please the traditional ear more than others.
"each song has something new to offer - nothing falls short"
There are alternative tunings too, sometimes reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, but with Ange's precise notes picked out delicately on a new Martin guitar - the sweetnesss of which complements her voice perfectly. Even more goodies added to her store cupboard.
Lament is missing the stripped back feel of Bare Foot Folk, but it shows a new confidence in Ange's writing - and underlines exactly why the album is keenly anticipated by folk writers and radio presenters up and down the country. Without doubt, this CD is going to do well.
"the album is keenly anticipated by folk writers and radio presenters up and down the country. Without doubt, this CD is going to do well."
Lament of the Black Sheep has already caused ripples amongst the folk world. Ange has been out there playing the new songs at festivals and folk clubs during the Summer and is - beyond doubt - as fine a live performer as you could wish to see and hear. She was on top form at Bristol's smashing new Downend Folk Club in June - engaging with the audience between the captivating delivery of her highly original material. The clarity of her voice is what you'd expect from an award-winning singer; pitch and note perfect but with a much broader appeal than many of folk's other leading ladies.
"The clarity of her voice is what you'd expect from an award-winning singer; pitch and note perfect but with a much broader appeal than many of folk's other leading ladies."
The work Ange puts in behind the scenes is tremendous: she combines the busy life of a young mother with honing her prolific skills as a writer, producer, singer and musician. She is ably supported in everything she does by her husband Rob, who also acts as her manager, publicist and superb sound engineer. The dynamic they have makes a major contribution to her career. Ange's dedication to her craft is bearing fruit: Lament of the Black Sheep has taken Ange Hardy to the next level - and I, for one, can't wait to hear what she comes up with next.
Reviewer : Mike Weaver, Armandaleg
Somerset musician Ange Hardy’s third studio album is a neat progression from the stripped-down sound of one woman, one guitar showcased on previous release Bare Foot Folk. This time, delving into her rural heritage, her compositions again have many characteristics of traditional song, and could easily be believed to be from the tradition. The title track is a variation of the well-known nursery rhyme, from the perspective of the sheep who lost its wool. ‘The Gambler’s Lot’ has all the hallmarks we have come to associate with Hardy from her last album – the mulitracked harmonies, the a capella sections and the delicate finger-picked guitar. The song has a plaintive quality, underpinned by the subtle drone of Alex Cumming’s accordion. This melancholic tale, beautifully expressed in music, is typical of her repertoire featured on the record.
"All in all, another gem from Hardy, anticipating the prospect of even more exciting musical development."
‘The Daring Lassie’ builds on all the familiar elements, and adds layers, such as James Findlay’s fiddle and the player’s vocals as a counterpart to Hardy’s. The mood and the setting of the song is further enhanced by the woodwind of Jon Dyer and again the accordion of Cumming. This autobiographical story-song aptly captures musically the adventure and danger of Hardy’s fascinating teenage journey.
Credit must also go to the rhythm section of Lukas Drinkwater and Jo May who throughout the CD complement the gentle songs with their playing. All in all, another gem from Hardy, anticipating the prospect of even more exciting musical development.
Reviewer: Colin Bailey
The songs comprising the album are originals being ‘inspired by family, tradition, personal experience and the tales of West Somerset‘. This is a golden collection mark my words. I’m left feeling annoyed and frustrated with myself that I am only now coming to enjoy Ange’s music.
"The exquisiteness is something my ears and mind need to lap up aplenty."
What I knew already after just one listen through this preview (which has now been a good few listens) is it is already going to sit up with the top quarter of my personal albums of the year thus far. The exquisiteness is something my ears and mind need to lap up aplenty. This is music that nourishes. Live, it would get me high (on music, of course)! Plus I now have another phenomenal female folk singer to add to my favourites list alongside the likes of Kathryn Roberts,Kate Rusby and Cara Dillon.
"another phenomenal female folk singer to add to my favourites list alongside the likes of Kathryn Roberts,Kate Rusby and Cara Dillon."
Reviewer : Rob Powell
You don’t need to live in the world of English folk music for very long before being confronted by someone with an aggressively-protested view that nothing but our old, traditional songs has any right to be classed as folk. Ange Hardy’s new album, The Lament of the Black Sheep, is a collection of her own original works that effectively shatters this precious, pompous point of view and leaves it lying in shards all over the landscape. With enormous confidence and knife-sharp skill, Ange Hardy asserts the cultural importance of newly-written folk songs with an album that is wondrously beautiful, full of fire and has the pounding heart of an intensely lived rural life. Each is a new work of vibrant storytelling that is instantly recognisable as folk music in the best and most deeply English style.
"an album that is wondrously beautiful, full of fire and has the pounding heart of an intensely lived rural life."
Ange Hardy has a glorious voice that is as homely, warm and womanly as freshly baked honey cake. It is a voice that could have been crafted specifically for folk songs; sometimes it is soft and earthy and other times it churns and crackles like salted sea air, as the song demands. In the opening track, The Bow to The Sailor she strides in, head held high, and storms out a song of pride in work and the compulsion of the call to the sea; it is a song and a voice that could truly rise above the four winds. Check out her video of the track here: http://www.angehardy.com/video
After the storm we are lulled by the very sweet melancholy of the title track, The Lament of the Black Sheep, which sees our fluffy nursery rhyme sheep left all cold and alone having given away the only things he owns. It’s a wonderful opening to a fascinating collection of songs. If we take continuity to be one of the important factors in defining a folk song, then there is continuity here in abundance. Although they are newly told, these are the stories that have always been part of the English imagination: tales of running away (The Daring Lassie), of murders and hauntings (The Young Librarian), the pride of working the land (The Tilling Bird), partings (The Sailor’s Farewell), poaching (The Wanting Wife) false lovers (The Foolish Heir), lost travellers (The Lost Soul) and of beautiful but dozy young girls (The Wool Gatherer). Through her songs, we get to meet a lovely woman whose personality shines through as witty, sincere and engaging. As a teller of tales she stands very tall beside other folk musicians; story after story can be savoured simply for the pleasure of a good tale well told in song.
"As a teller of tales she stands very tall beside other folk musicians; story after story can be savoured simply for the pleasure of a good tale well told in song."
These narrative tales slink quietly under the doors and into the private lives of the people loving and working, dreaming and dying in the countryside of England. However, I suspect that there is something more interesting, and just a little more rebellious, going on underneath. The narrative voice and style sooths you into assuming that you listening to some nice, safe traditional songs, beautifully wrapped in a warm English glow with centuries of tradition behind them. But after a little while a very small, and rather pleasing sense of unease creeps in and whispers quietly that all is not quite as comfortably distant as these classically-styled songs of our landscape might suggest. Difference is that, however wildly traditionalists protest that the old songs still reflect our lives now, many of them do not now reflect real life as such, but a stylized, once-angry and romanticised view where highwaymen and smugglers are refashioned as heroes, the worst experiences of press-ganging are all forced into one narrative, and songs of shepherds and shepherdesses were written and now sung by people who were not there at the time and have only a chocolate box view of a pastoral life - but The Lament of the Black Sheep is based on real life. Ange Hardy pours her own experiences, very personal memories and private thoughts into these songs and still somehow creates something that flawlessly embodies ‘folk’. In fact she does it so perfectly that more than once I wondered if this wasn’t intended as a kind of satirical illusion, where the folk stories we think we know are reversed and our nursery tales are retold from the black sheep’s point of view; where a song could be a pretty serenade – or it might just be a song about a chicken; and in which comely girls are splattered with mud and manure rather than stolen and whisked off to fairyland. But having listened many times, and tumbled it over in my mind, I do not this that this is anything as disrespectful as parody of folk. I think instead that Ange Hardy is someone who recognises intuitively the fine nuances of our folkloric tradition, complete with its tendency to slapstick humour, preference for romance, and its eye for the bizarre, that she is able to conjure up and capture the puckish little spirit that flickers in all our old folk songs and give it new life in her own work.
You can listen to tracks from the album and download them on her SoundCloud site:https://soundcloud.com/angehardy
To say that an artist has the ability to produce a piece that is timeless and sounds as if it could have been written hundreds of years ago, is a well-worn compliment and is not usually deserved, but here it is justified. There is no doubt of her commitment to the ideals of folk but, armed with her own often dramatic and painful experience of rural life, she has clearly rejected the whimsy and sentimentality that often goes with the creation of something ‘in the folk tradition’. Her harmonies are impressive multi-storey structures like delicate, tiered church spires carved and embellished in sparkly music rather than cold stone. However, she is such a fine architect that I would be amazed if she is content in her future with only this most classical of styles. I think she has the talent, the feeling for powerful, theatrical narrative and the force of intelligence to be a shape-shifter. Like those denizens of our island folklore who can change effortlessly from maidens into swans, wolves, hares or the strange dark-eyed selkie-folk, I would not be in the least surprised if for Ange Hardy’s next album we were handed something in a different form, and not a lesser creation for it. Ange Hardy seems very likely now to become a towering talent of our folk scene with a huge and broad repertoire.
"Ange Hardy seems very likely now to become a towering talent of our folk scene with a huge and broad repertoire."
There is something autumnal about this collection of songs. Maybe it is just the warmth of Ange Hardy’s voice which shimmers in every shade of autumn, but I think it is more than that. There is depth and shadow to every story that makes me think of that turning point in the year when the silhouettes soften, the still-warm nights start to draw in and colours change from the bleached-out shades of high summer into deep reds, golds and earthy browns. Her landscape reminds me of the work of artist Arthur Rackham, whose streams of inky colour and fine, undulating lines form a brooding countryside with twisted oaks, looming seascapes and a parade of characters that range from the ethereal to the comic.
The Lament of the Black Sheep seems to be not a lament so much as an explosion of joy and appreciation of the folklore of English land and sea. It will certainly please the traditionalists within the folk community; in terms of creating a folk album worthy of the praise of Cecil Sharp House, Ange Hardy doesn’t put a toe out of line. But she does leave you with the impression that if she wanted to she could dismantle the genre, spread it in pieces all over the floor, and then put it back together again in an entirely new way, should she wish to. To just describe Ange Hardy as a traditional folk singer would be to over-look something much more important. I would not say that her work is about preserving folk traditions as much as about acknowledging our debt to them, but then allowing them to do what folk stories, songs and ballads have always done – to change, to absorb additions and to remain alive. Folk music should be just what this album is: a chattering, fast-flowing river with tributaries, small brooks to paddle in, crashing waterfalls and rocky beaches that gape at the wide, wide sea. For those who want to fence it off and preserve it, it will become only a stagnant pool.
" if she wanted to she could dismantle the genre, spread it in pieces all over the floor, and then put it back together again in an entirely new way, should she wish to."
The Lament of the Black Sheep really is a very fine piece of work, and enormously satisfying. The album is a perfect embodiment of everything that is fascinating and alive about the lore of this land, and a far better thesis on the importance of folk lore and folk music than I could ever write in mere words.
Reviewer : Tamsin Rosewell
I had been looking forward to receiving this album from Ange Hardy, as it was the long anticipated follow up to her last excellent CD – ‘Bare Foot Folk’.
The previous offering was so good, that I thought that it would be difficult to follow. I’m delighted to report that she has managed to come up with a little gem of a recording with ‘The Lament of The Black Sheep’.
It’s always difficult to review Ange Hardy, because there is usually some point of reference which you can use as an comparison of what an artist sounds like. In this case she sounds like, well Ange Hardy….
Every now and again you come across a songwriter who has the gift of being able to produce songs which sound like they have been discovered in a book of songs from years ago, dusted down and reinterpreted. Ange has the rare ability to be able to write convincingly in a ‘traditional’ style which sounds genuinely authentic.
"Ange has the rare ability to be able to write convincingly in a ‘traditional’ style which sounds genuinely authentic."
To complete the magic, she sings with conviction and sensitivity with stunning harmonies which she can actually reproduce in a live concert. Using ‘looping’ pedals, she sings a line – plays it back adds another and another and the end result is magnificent.
The Lament of The Black Sheep is an album that you need to sit and listen to very carefully to fully appreciate the wordcraft and melody structure of the songs.
The songwriting skills are complimented by well thought out arrangements and shade of light and dark to bring out the impact of the lyrics.
Additional musicians make a massive but subtle contribution to the album, and Ange has roped in some excellent talent to appear on certain tracks.
James Findlay | Lukas Drinkwater | Jon Dyer | Alex Cumming | Jo May
"There has already been a stack of glowing appreciation showered on the recording, all which I can only agree with."
This review has perhaps arrives a little late as I have had the CD for over a month. There has already been a stack of glowing appreciation showered on the recording, all which I can only agree with.
I really can’t wait for the next offering…
Reviewer : Alan Morley, UK Folk Music
Twitter can be a wonderful thing, and from it I feel I know Ange, husband Rob, and children Luke and Amy really well. Ange tweets constantly, so I know the context in which this, her third studio album, was written.
"guaranteed to make you smile."
Now settled in rural Somerset, all fourteen self-penned songs look at the rural life and Ange's personal experiences of the area in which she lives. The Songs revolve around farming, with a few 'he has gone off to sea' songs thrown in for good measure. However, what makes this album quite special is that it doesn't always dwell in the past, but gives a new, modern twist to some familiar stories, my favourite being 'The Woolgatherer', which is guaranteed to make you smile.
"The album is, like Ange's voice, just delightful. Please give it a listen. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I have done."
Ange had gathered together some top-quality musicians for this album and there is some supurb fiddle playing by James Findlay and flute and whistle by Jon Dyer. The album is, like Ange's voice, just delightful. Please give it a listen. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I have done.
Reviewer : Graham Hobbs, Shire Folk
This is one of the most charming old world folk albums I have heard in some time.
This takes me back to the times of Raven&Mills, Tickawinda, Faraway Folk, and many of the other greats from the UK in the late 60s and 70s. Hardy is from West Somerset and she knows her craft well, both in songwriting and singing. This album flows by with that imperceptible kind of magic that you sense, but just can’t quite place.
This is a great record, so I can’t imagine a FolkWorld reader not completely wanting to dig into this. There is little more to say, so go listen to it already.
Reviewer: David Hintz
Shades of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span and ye olde days! I had not heard of Ange Hardy until this album but I will be backtracking soon, thanks to a voice steeped in the modern traditions of the traditional folk music so many of us loved back in the sixties and seventies and even the fifties—music which conjured up visions of Robin Hood and serfdom and kings and earls and barons. Music melodic and harmonious, ready for the chorus of voices the modern folk rock bands took care to provide. Ange Hardy continues the tradition, following in the vocal footsteps of Maddy Prior and Sandy Denny and the more modern but traditional sides of Clannad and their like. Female voice up front, chorus behind and sometimes full-on chorus, folk chorus though it be.
"Ange Hardy continues the tradition, following in the vocal footsteps of Maddy Prior and Sandy Denny and the more modern but traditional sides of Clannad and their like."
If you know anything about British, Irish and Scottish folk music, you are aware of the jigs and reels and ballads of the past. You know the instruments—guitars and lutes and a string of odd stringed instruments linked to periods which conjure up visions of King Richard and serfdom and the aforementioned Robin Hood—music most of us heard in bastardized form courtesy of Hollywood. When folk met rock, though, the modern ear took note. Such is what we get from Hardy here.
If you are ignorant of the genre, this would be a good starter album. Hardy has a more than pleasant voice which adapts to the song, sometimes accent-strong and at other times smooth and wind-blown—universal. Fourteen songs, assumedly Hardy-penned, and every one reaching deep. Nice, nice stuff.
"Fourteen songs, assumedly Hardy-penned, and every one reaching deep. Nice, nice stuff."
Hardy has two previous studio albums for your perusal as well—Bare Foot Folk and Windmills and Wishes. The Lament of the Black Sheep has struck deep enough for me to search out those albums as soon as I finish typing this. So, if you will excuse me, I have some listening to do. I would suggest you do a little of your own. If this were a music video, I would have an arrow pointing to Hardy's album jacket with the line, "Start here"! It's as good a place as any I've heard recently.
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 musicians: James Findlay on violin and vocals; Luckas Drinkwater contributing double bass and his voice; Jon Dyer, an expert flute and whistle player; Alex 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 accompaniment; James 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 a 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 expect, very 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 Ange’s 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 story. Furthermore, through the arrangements of her songs, she creates atmospheres that suit the tales the songs tell.
Reviewer : The Young Folk
Many ghosts stalk the rich, fertile landscape evoked with such consummate skill by Ange Hardy on The Lament of the Black Sheep, the follow-up album to last year’s quietly commanding Bare Foot Folk.
If there is nothing to quite match the brooding Brontё-ness of “The Ghost on the Moor”, the spectres conjured here in songs like “The Foolish Heir” and “The Young Librarian” are testament to Hardy’s imagination as a natural folk-song writer, completely immersed in the gentle evolution of her craft. The album is a carefully integrated collection of moods and lore, constantly shifting and moving on.
"a natural folk-song writer, completely immersed in the gentle evolution of her craft"
Her notable gift for setting contemporary lyrics to timeless melodies, wreathed in subtle harmonies, means that you are often lulled into a sense of deep, oaky tradition – only to be brought up sharply by 21st-century references; “The Cull”, for example, is a poignant, objective view of the current, highly controversial attempt to stop TB spreading from badgers to cattle.
Like much of Hardy’s material, it is rooted in her West Somerset territory, the very soil of which seems to give rise effortlessly to the characters who populate her tales. Even the black sheep of the title track – a retelling of the nursery rhyme from the pathetic, denuded sheep’s perspective – catches you out with its poignant blend of experience and observation.
"poignant blend of experience and observation."
While she says The Lament of the Black Sheep is not an overtly autobiographical album, Hardy’s skill is at its most focused in the songs that touch directly on her own life. The title track, for example, was inspired by the innocent bleakness of her son Luke’s interpretation of the rhyme. Family and motherhood loom large as themes.
But the most poignant numbers are “The Daring Lassie” and “The Lost Soul”, both of which reflect on different aspects of her teenage flight from a Somerset care home to a new life in Ireland – each a nod, in its way, to the spirit and survival instincts of a young woman who continues to inform much of Hardy’s work: a ghost of a different kind.
The vision which emerges from this beautifully textured album is that heritage is as much about the soul we carry with us as it is about the physical landscape that we spend our lives roaming across.
- Reviewer : Piers Ford, The Art of The Torch Singer
Na een draaibeurt op mijn cd-speler van het album The Lament of The Black Sheep van de Engelse folkartiest Ange Hardy ben ik naarstig op zoek naar een klassieke dichtregel om de schoonheid van haar muziek te kunnen duiden. Regels als Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer’s Day (William Shakespeare), A Thing Of Beauty Is A Joy Forever (John Keats) en Nothing Is So Beautiful As Spring (Gerard Manley Hopkins) verdringen zich in mijn poëtisch geheugen, maar geven mij gelijktijdig een onbevredigend gevoel. Te algemeen, te zeer voor de hand liggend en daarom niet echt geschikt om mijn grenzeloze waardering voor dit kunstwerk vorm te geven. Wat dit album zo bijzonder maakt, zijn de zelfgeschreven liedjes die tekstueel naadloos aansluiten op de traditionele opzet van de liedjes zoals die opgetekend zijn in het Grote Liedjes Boek van de Engelse volksmuziek.
Gekoppeld aan Ange’s grote verbeeldingskracht en warm medemenselijk inlevingsvermogen laten de liedjes op dit album zich als boeiende korte verhalen beluisteren. De muzikale invulling is minstens zo verantwoord. Een handvol musici zorgen met hun prachtvolle instrumentaties voor een goed passende omlijsting van de melodielijnen en structuren van het repertoire op dit album. In de stem en de voordracht van de zangeres liggen eeuwen aan Engelse muziektradities opgeslagen. Het aangename aan Ange’s stemgeluid is dat elke noot, elke lettergreep door haar volkomen natuurlijk gezongen wordt. Als het zuiverste water beweegt haar stem door het brede landschap van haar liedjes en vormt een onuitputtelijke bron van puur luistergenot. Aan de vele hooglijk gewaardeerde namen van folkzangeressen vanuit het Verenigd Koninkrijk heb ik de naam van Ange Hardy met gouden letters toegevoegd. In mijn boekje is dit een van de mooiste folkalbums die het jaar 2014 met hun verschijnen opgeluisterd hebben.
Reviewer: Koos Gijsman
“Lovely Cd and quality and music, arrived quickly, well packaged, will keep as favourite, Thank you,”
“A flawless and beautiful piece of work that places Ange where she clearly belongs: amongst the very finest exponents of British Folk. Love it!”
“I love this album, it's become a real favourite. Perfect traditional folk storytelling, but with tales that are new and richly coloured. For me this album has brought English folk music back to life - I have to confess that I was beginning to find endless versions of the same 'traditional' songs all a bit too safe and dusty. Ange Hardy has blown away all the dust off the fuddy-duddy part of the folk scene with the force of a storm - and the day suddenly feels fresher. These are new folk songs from Somerset without all the cliquey folky stuff going on. And yet they are still clearly and recognisably in the folk tradition, full of our landscape and characters and hinting too at our old stories and rhymes. I bought her first album having heard this one. Very curious to know where she is going to go with album three!”
“One of the best folk albums I have heard in a long time from an amazing artist whose future is assured with quality like this”
“I stumbled across the music of Ange Hardy, only in March this year, when Mark Radcliffe played one of her tracks. Since then I have played her music constantly. It has wonderful warmth yet a unique freshness. It is both happy and sad. It makes simple messages from complex personal stories. Ange's music brings a freshness to the Folk scene and what an array of terrific talent she has found along the way to assist her. Most importantly, if you are considering buying this album, it is engaging from beginning to lullaby, every track, and with that same excitement every time you listen.”
“Thank God for fresh, young talent like this in the Folk world, where would we be without it. This is the third of three great albums from Ange and although the first album was in my view excellent they just keep getting better and better. Buy this and the others, and get yourself out to see her live at the first opportunity, your eyes and ears are missing a real treat.”
“A superb album that I play again and again.Every time I hear it I discover something new.Definitely my folk album of the year.”
“This is a beautiful album which, in my opinion, confirms Ange Hardy within the top flight of British folk artists and singer songwriters. The quality of the singing is outstanding with gorgeous spine-tingling harmonies. Loop recording is used with great skill to create auto harmonies. The songs sparkle with wit and tell profound and remarkable stories - none more so than the haunting "The Lost Soul", which I find both moving and inspiring. The quality of the album is immediately apparent from the driving "The Bow to the Sailor" tale of the sea's pull and each song is a gem. If you enjoy great writing, singing, lyrics and playing you will love this album from an artist at the top of her game who recently won the Fatea magazine female vocalist of the year (in the face of extremely strong competition). Signed copies of all Ange Hardy's CDs are available from her website (http://www.angehardy.com/shop).”
“I was fortunate to discover Ange Hardy about 18 months ago after being sent her marvellous Barefoot Folk album. I was immediately struck by the purity of her voice, the brilliance and warmth of her songwriting and the canniness of her guitar playing. Ange's new album takes this a stage further. Her voice is better than ever, and song writing, in the best tradition of traditional British folk music, full of wit, great story telling and beautiful melodies. The sailor's farewell, The woolgatherer and The raising and the letting go are among some of the best songs you'll hear all year. The album is not just one of the best folk albums of the year, but one of THE albums of the year. If there's any justice in this world, Ange will be storming the Radio 2 folk awards in 2015.”
“The best album I have bought this year.a beautiful selection of heartfelt personal songs that tell stories to music. Her previous albums have been a joy to listen to and Lament doesn't disappoint. There are no particular favorites here, they're all good! I highly recommend the CD version for the wonderful design and casing”
“A simply superb album by a real talent. A great and expressive voice telling traditional and original stories with equal effect. Can't wait to see her in a live performance. Greatly recommended.”
“I have to disagree with the last reviewer on the question of whether the songs on Ange's first two albums, Windmills and Wishes and Bare Foot Folk, 'hang together' throughout the albums. Yes, they are certainly very different from one another but each has, I think, its own distinctive narrative. However, Bare Foot Folk definitely marked a change in musical direction, placing her firmly in the folk camp and demonstrating Ange's quite singular ability to write songs that you somehow feel have been around for many a year. And here I do agree with the review because Lament of the Black Sheep takes her a step further down the folk road with a surefootedness that not only underpins her (and her supporting musicians') evident musicality but also leaves you in no doubt that this is a talent that is going to grow and evolve well into the future. I for one can't wait to hear what's in store! Lament of the Black Sheep is the kind of album that you will want to listen to again and again: somehow it manages to improve each time you play it. Buy it, you will not be disappointed!”
“After a couple of very decent albums which had some outstanding songs and performances (and are still well worth checking out), but which never really hung together for the full length of the album, The Lament of The Black Sheep, on the other hand, really shows what Ange Hardy is capable of. These songs are of uniformly high quality and have that rare quality of sounding like they could have been written at any time in the last couple of hundred years. The production is precise and crisp, but never so slick that it gets in the way of the timeless nature of the songs. There isn't a weak track among them, but more than that, from the start of the album to the end, they feel like they fit satisfyingly together, despite covering a range of styles and tempos. Hugely recommended.”
“Beautiful, thoughtful, clever, creative, timeless....nope....none of these words are enough sum up this amazing album....thankyou Ange! X”
“This is a brilliant album that is gaining rave reviews across the folk world. Well worth a listen.”