Bring Back Home 2017


Amazon Reviewers

★★★★★

"Another extraordinary, beautifully crafted album."

"A beautiful album, great songs, brilliant musicianship and very well produced."

"Amazing and magical album."

"Strongly recommended."

"Her voice is crystal clear and cuts through the noise of the everyday to pierce the heart, bringing tears of hope, love and pain at regular intervals"

"Brilliantly packaged album from a super talented lady, every song is so well crafted."

"One of the most memorable albums you will have in your collection"

"Quickly becoming my favourite album this year."

"There are no "fillers" on this album."

"Another work of art from Ange. Love the music and the cover too! Inspired"

"One of the most beautifully crafted albums you will hear today or in the future"

"Beautiful new album. Play it daily! Another work of art from Ange. Love the music and the cover too! Inspired"

"The music is lovely, with some wonderful fiddle parts from Peter Knight (ex-Steeleye Span)"

     - Amazon Reviewers


The Sunday Express

★★★★

"A songwriting peak... heartbreaking... entertaining and highly imaginative"

Hardy, who ran away from a children’s home in Somerset as a 14-year-old and lived homeless on the streets of Ireland, has come a long way since her tough early years. 

She may just have hit a songwriting peak here with the opening Sister’s Three, an everyday tale of tree-climbing siblings swallowed, literally, by the forest they love. 

Blending traditional and modern folk influences, and with a heartbreaking fiddle solo from Peter Knight, it sets the template for an entertaining and highly imaginative sixth album. 

     - Reviewer: - Martin Townsend, The Sunday Express


FolkWords

“Deeply rooted in the folk tradition yet bursting with originality and invention... continuing proof, were any needed, that Ange Hardy ranks among our most meaningful and respected folk musicians... faultless... inspired.”

Incidents and accidents have a way of just happening ... they also have a way of shaping our world, or at least how we view it. You can look askance at life, become involved, fall its victim or make yourself its equal. The voyage that brought Ange Hardy to deliver ‘Bring Back Home’ proves she understands the vagaries of chance and the positivity of choice. This collection returns to more observational and personal views, changing perspective from the concept and themed approach of the previous two albums.

Deeply rooted in the folk tradition yet bursting with originality and invention, ‘Bring Back Home’ stands continuing proof, were any needed, that Ange Hardy ranks among our most meaningful and respected folk musicians. Her interpretation of two ‘classic’ traditionals is faultless while her touch on the 12 originals is inspired. Opening with ‘Sisters Three’ ... standard folk-fare woven with jealousy, murder and mystical happenings, before the inspirational ‘Once I Was A Rose’ tugs at the heart and the poignant ‘Bring Back Home’ tells its sad tale of loss. Continuing a story that Ange introduced on the album Barefoot Folk, ‘The Hunter, The Prey’ is a darkly moral tale of a hunter hunted and killed by his son, as ‘Summer’s Day/ Little Wilscombe’  lifts the mood with its pastoral message.

Two interpretations of tradition are ‘Claudy Banks’ combined with a spritely reel ahead of ‘Waters of Tyne’ with lamenting lovers separated by said river. There follows two inimitable originals: ‘A Girl Like Her’ for Ange’s daughter, inspires a wider and positive standpoint on Asperger’s and ADHD, before ‘What May You Do For The JAM?’ with its themes of social awareness, understanding and respect inspired by Theresa May’s observation that some families are “just about managing.” This is a wonderful album.

Joining Ange Hardy (vocals, harp, guitar, whistle) on ‘Bring Back Home’ are Peter Knight (fiddle, vocals, backing vocals) Lukas Drinkwater (bass, guitar, backing vocals) Evan Carson (percussion) Alex Cumming (accordion) Jon Dyer (flute, whistle) and Lee Cuff (cello, backing vocals).

     - Reviewer: Tim Carroll, FolkWords


FRUK (Folk Radio UK)

"This is yet further testament that she’s a shining beacon illuminating the byways of traditional folk for today’s landscape, you should be beating a path to its door!"

With a work ethic that would make the most ardent Calvinist look like a slacker, snuggled inside an exquisite cover design by Michael Cook, Bring Back Home is Ange Hardy’s sixth studio album. She continues her collaboration with Lukas Drinkwater who provides bass and guitar here alongside contributions from percussionist Evan Carson, new arrival cellist Lee Cuff and a Lament of the Black Sheep reunion with Alex Cumming on accordion and Jon Dyer on flute and whistle, plus folk legend fiddler Peter Knight. Likewise, this is, as ever, steeped in the folk tradition albeit all bar two being wholly original material. That it contains a drowned sailor lover, a murder and someone called Johnny firmly underlines her credentials in the canon.

It kicks off  with Sisters Three, one with a good heart, one with an evil heart and one with no heart at all, a metaphorical folk tale about jealousy, child abandonment, fratricide, magical oaks and the origin of good and evil set to a frisky, fiddle-driven tune and lively chorus and unfolding in a familiar Hardy landscape of willow trees, streams and dense woodlands with massive root structures. All neatly wrapped up in four minutes.

With a work ethic that would make the most ardent Calvinist look like a slacker, snuggled inside an exquisite cover design by Michael Cook, Bring Back Home is Ange Hardy’s sixth studio album. She continues her collaboration with Lukas Drinkwater who provides bass and guitar here alongside contributions from percussionist Evan Carson, new arrival cellist Lee Cuff and a Lament of the Black Sheep reunion with Alex Cumming on accordion and Jon Dyer on flute and whistle, plus folk legend fiddler Peter Knight. Likewise, this is, as ever, steeped in the folk tradition albeit all bar two being wholly original material. That it contains a drowned sailor lover, a murder and someone called Johnny firmly underlines her credentials in the canon.

It kicks off  with Sisters Three, one with a good heart, one with an evil heart and one with no heart at all, a metaphorical folk tale about jealousy, child abandonment, fratricide, magical oaks and the origin of good and evil set to a frisky, fiddle-driven tune and lively chorus and unfolding in a familiar Hardy landscape of willow trees, streams and dense woodlands with massive root structures. All neatly wrapped up in four minutes.

Sung a capella with hummed accompaniment, the affecting Once I Was A Rose, a reminder to make time for those you love, was inspired her friendship with an elderly woman, once an artist, who, as she grew too old to live on her own was put in an assisted care home, the visits by her children gradually becoming less frequent while the boredom grew more overwhelming.

Built around fingerpicked acoustic guitar with cymbal flourishes and a solo from Cumming, the title track introduces the album’s first Johnny, one of the twenty-four fishermen who set out to sea never to return, leaving his lover lamenting on the shore.

Hardy’s albums frequently tip the hat to her hometown of Watchet, and so it is here with St Decuman. Arranged in a circling melody with fiddle and harp, the title’s a reference to the local church, the graveyard of which allegedly contains the unmarked grave of the Welsh hermit and subsequent titular saint who, as legend has it sailed to Watchet on his cloak and wounded up being decapitated by some grumpy Dane, only to glue it back on again with water from the holy well.

On her debut album, Barefoot Folk, Mother Willow Tree told of a hunter transformed into a hare by a willow tree, now comes the sequel, The Hunter, The Prey, in which, partly sung in a sort of conspiratorial whisper, underpinned by an hypnotic percussive rhythm with suitably spooked fiddle and whistles, he finds himself hunted and killed by his own son, serving up a moral lesson about our children being what we make them.

The mood lightens with Summer’s Day/Little Wilscombe, a simple flute-flavoured ditty about the joys of the countryside in May that has a hint of the Morris about it, the second half a lively fiddle, hand drum and accordion reel.

We remain in May for the first of the two traditional numbers and another Johnny whose ship’s wrecked at sea, Hardy providing whistle on her stately setting of Claudy Banks, apparently a clip of the original 2013 home demo being her first national radio play.

We’re back to willows and water for Little Benny Sing Well, Knight both giving it some gypsy fiddle drama and duetting on a vaguely medieval sounding tune about patience and perseverance, relating how, after his father’s killed in the war,  Benny spends twenty years sitting by the river competing the task dad gave him of building a bridge by throwing stones.

The second traditional number is another from the Roud collection, Hardy accompanying herself on harp for a simple, uncluttered and vocally pure version of Waters of Tyne and its lament of lovers separated by the river.

Next up, the name Johnny makes its third appearance, albeit here truncated to Husband John. The obligatory murder ballad, this one about a young maid who kills her employer’s adulterous wife, buries the body, tells him she’s run off and becomes his second bride, brightly arranged for metronomic percussion, fingerpicked guitar, flute, whistle and cello.

The final stretch gets underway on a personal note with A Girl Like Her, etched on acoustic guitar with warm cello accompaniment, a gorgeous joy-filled song for her daughter and, by extension an insightful observation on those who suffer from Asperger’s and ADHD that looks at things from a positive perspective as she sings how “She’ll rise up singing in the morning sun, seize the day with a smile and a song”, ending with an unaccompanied reading of the chorus that has an almost hymnal quality.

Social commentary rears its head with the festive setting and circular guitar pattern of What May You Do For The JAM? a song inspired by both her panic over preparing for Christmas and a comment by Theresa May on the Jeremy Vine show about families who are “just about managing”. With its chorus about the those living on “a handful of hand downs and minimum wage” and “the should be retirees, born the wrong year”, it’s a song about holding on to dignity and putting on a brave face for the children, and a call to remember the fight for equality, security, love and respect when it comes to doing what is right with your vote.

It’s thematically linked to the penultimate fingerpicked track, Chase The Devil Down, a musical nod perhaps to the American-influenced late 60s folk scene and names like Rambling Jack Elliot, Ian Campbell and Dave Van Ronk  and a chorus friendly song about not giving in to self-doubt and bitterness and to “bring back home a heart of blood and not of stone.”

It ends with another simply structured acoustic guitar and cello number, the slow waltzing What It Is. In the booklet she wryly describes it as her “I didn’t get a folk award nomination again and it nearly destroyed me” song, but, behind the joke, there’s a serious point about the moment she realised that, in chasing awards, she’d lost sight of the music; fixated on the goal, she’d become blinded to the journey. Its carpe diem sentiment about enjoying life while it’s here and that “seldom will your time be well spent on the past” echoes throughout the album, which was about getting back to where she started, the title surely a nod to Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home.  It’s beautifully summed up in the heart-touching chorus, echoing  Lennon and McCartney in its words of wisdom to “let it be what it is for the grieving is more than the time that you have and coming is more for the leaving. It is more to have love than to have.” She may say that she felt she’d lost her way, but her footing has never been less than firm. Awards and nominations are great, but quality should never be judged by the trophies on the shelf. This is yet further testament that she’s a shining beacon illuminating the byways of traditional folk for today’s landscape, you should be beating a  path to its door. Welcome home Ange, this is domestic bliss.

     - Reviewer:  FRUK (Folk Radio UK)


FATEA Magazine

"As an album for the here and now I think you would struggle to find better, as for the future, this one is here for the years to come"

If you count "Findings", the album Ange Hardy recorded with Lukas Drinkwater, "Bring Back Home" is Ange's 6th studio album, which is always a good vantage point to look at an artists career particularly when five of those albums, including this one, have emerged at a rate of one a year and with a tendency to have a particularly generous 14 tracks on an album, particularly prolific by the standards of the day.

Ange's albums have tended to be step changes from the previous cuts, drawing on different styles and sounds, but maintaining the link with that that went before it, it's not a coincidence that "Esteesee" draws on the landscape that was partly laid down in "The Lament Of The Black Sheep", nor that its successor drew links between the points on life's path, all of which carries us to Ms Hardy's new album, "Bring Back Home".

There is something apocryphal about the title, if albums one to five were about the journey, this is an album that is about the destination, even if it's only a temporary one. This is an album of a completely free and unfettered songwriter, one that takes the songs as they fancy and aren't holding in any preconceived ideas about where this album needs to go and the album has responded to that liberation in abundance, making it not only the strongest album that Ange has yet delivered, but also one that's easy to access.

It's an album of juxtaposition, folklore and legend butt up against songs of life; tradition shares album space with the contemporary, minimalist standing cheek by jowl to songs that are definitely band orientated and that brings us to the musicianship.

Ange Hardy is a multi-instrumentalist who knows her way around a good selection of stuff you can strum, pluck and blow, "Bring Back Home" has her joined by regular collaborators Lukas Drinkwater, Evan Carson, Alex Cumming and Jon Dyer, plus Kadia's Lee Cuff and front and centre the incomparable Peter Knight, who delivers a fiddle solo that could unpetrify the stoniest of hearts.

Great musicianship is nothing without great arrangement, it's said a triangle can drown an orchestra and there must be a temptation to keep musicians of this calibre playing, whilst "Bring Back Home" proves that it is better to use them sparingly, deliver the melody and narrative and reward them with a few critical bars in between.

I'm not normally one for calling out individual tracks, particularly when this is an album that works so well, precisely because it's not carrying a story arc, but it would be remiss of me not to mention, "What May You Do For The JAM" one of the most social realist tracks that Ange Hardy has recorded to date. It is both a withering attack on the heartlessness of those who are supposed to offer the hand of support, but who constantly keep it tantalisingly out of reach, whilst celebrating the stoic families that somehow hold it together, it's as good a four minutes of song as you would find anywhere.

It is only time that determines the great from the merely very good. As an album for the here and now I think you would struggle to find better, as for the future, this one is here for the years to come, it's already taken great leaps towards the triumphal arch, history the rest is down to you.

     - Reviewer: Neil King, FATEA Magazine


Northern Sky

"a truly exquisite album... a consummate performer and an extraordinarily talented writer, musician and interpreter of traditional folk song"

It's hard to believe that BRING BACK HOME is Ange Hardy's sixth studio album, how did that happen?! Hardy's prolific output in no way sacrifices quality over quantity, and in fact it is the consistently high standard of her music that never ceases to amaze her ever growing and appreciative audience. It's testimony to Ange Hardy's standing that in spite of the deluge of CD's I am lucky enough to hear over the course of a year, her hugely enjoyable 2016 release FINDINGS, accompanied by Lukas Drinkwater can still be found a year later residing within easy reach of my CD player and continuing to enjoy frequent playtime.

Bring Back Home picks up where Findings left off and once again presents the listener with a well structured portfolio of finely crafted songs all beautifully performed and that collectively should at last see Ange Hardy rightfully take her place amongst Folk's major league players. Hardy has always managed to amass an array of notable musicians to guest on her albums, with previous guest lists including Nancy Kerr, Kathryn Roberts, Ciaran Algar, Archie Churchill-Moss and Eve Carson.

Bring Back Home is no exception, and the album features some wonderful cameos from Peter Knight, Alex Cumming, with return appearances from Lee Cuft and Eve Carson. In essence, Bring Back Home is a truly exquisite album with all but two songs being original compositions. It would be grossly unfair to pick out individual tracks for preference or special mention as the quality and structure of the album affords each song an equal place at the table.

My appreciation and affection for Ange Hardy’s music grows from album to album and her latest work only serves to further increase my regard for her as a consummate performer and an extraordinarily talented writer, musician and interpreter of traditional folk song. One thing's for sure, Bring Back Home will be yet another Ange Hardy  album that doesn't find itself at the bottom of the CD pile for some time to come.

     - Phil Carter, Northern Sky


Folk All

"Her song writing and ability to infuse her compositions and arrangements with a magical essence is mesmerising.... the emotion and feeling Hardy can muster is astonishing... and her ability to tell a story and create characters along with the world they inhabit is unrivalled"

Ange Hardy should come with a health warning as well as kept well away from shipping lanes. Sirens who lured sailors to their doom with beautiful singing are supposed to be fantasy figures, however, after listening to Hardy's latest album that notion is thrown into doubt.

Her song writing and ability to infuse her compositions and arrangements with a magical essence is mesmerising. The talent she exudes with such ease puts her right up there with the best female folk singers in the UK.

Even Michael Cook’s cover artwork has both an ethereal and sinister feel and could easily be mistaken for one of the illustrations JRR Tolkien created for his famous books.

Should you want to open an album with a track which grabs your spirit, attention, your mind and imagination then Sisters Three is the way to do it. Hardy’s galloping and silky singing on this murder ballad is mixed with Peter Knight’s exquisite fiddle playing.

It creates a magical realm that explodes around you, giving you a sense of Hardy dancing around making you dizzy, breaking down your resistance until you are totally captivated by the world she creates.

You recover in the woods looking up at the blue sky and never ending trees with birdsong restoring your senses on Once I Was a Rose. Hardy’s other worldly humming creates a magical atmosphere for this conscience pricking song. There is a tone of regret in her singing as she reminds listeners not to forget their loved ones.

It really wouldn’t be a folk album without a song about the sea and the title track delivers. Hardy’s poignant lyrics are carried along by Evan Carson using cymbals to create the sound of the restless waves and Alex Cumming adding the sound of salt-washed shores with his bellows.

Together, with Hardy’s subtle guitar picking, they create what is a beautifully thoughtful song which washes over you and taps deep into your psyche.

St Decuman is a wonderfully preposterous story which, as we all know, make fantastic folk tunes. Shirley Williams recently stated you cannot write folk music, meaning folk musicians write music which then evolves into folk music by passing through the hearts and minds of folk to be adapted and passed on for generations.

Future folk songs have to start somewhere and this track sounds like the birth of one.

Hunters, hares, shape changers, willow trees and spells - how can you not like a ballad which crams in all these elements of myth, magic and legend?

With The Hunter, The Prey Hardy’s breathy tones create images of a group enthralled as she tells her tale. Once again that tableau is given colour and atmosphere by Knight on fiddle and Jon Dyer on whistle.

If you didn’t know how enamoured Hardy is with all things in nature then the uplifting Summer’s Day/Little Wilscombe makes it obvious. It has the feel of music of The Shire composed by Howard Shore. The sound could easily be the lost tunes of Hobbiton.

Claudy Banks (Roud 266) is Hardy’s take on a traditional song which she first picked up four years ago. This ballad, of a troubled romance and eventual redemption, is perfect for her soft, clear tones.

This is followed by the musical fable Little Benny Sing Well. The counting song-style of the tune speaks of the virtues of tenacity. There is a nice juxtaposition of Hardy’s velvety tones and Knight’s more gravelly, wizard-like singing. Once again Knight’s fiddle and Hardy’s harp inserts create a marvellous arena in which to listen to the tale.

Waters of Tyne Road (Roud 1364) is a love song which Hardy takes on herself using voice and harp. The ethereal instrument is perfectly suited to Hardy’s voice making her interpretation hymn-like.

Her storytelling comes up with the staple of many a folk song in Husband John - a tale of treachery and murder. Here Hardy sounds remarkably like another great songstress and storyteller, Daria Kulesh. The simplicity of the accompaniment which entwines the fiddle, whistle and guitar sets the perfect tone.

There is always a danger when a writer produces something as personal as A Girl Like Her, which is about Hardy's daughter and her struggle to be understood, that the listener can feel like an intruder.

However, Hardy is a very open person, you only have to read her online biography to know that, and so knows how to lay out the facts without being distant or emotionally saccharin.

Also inspired by real life is What May You Do for the JAM? triggered by Theresa May’s use of the term ‘Just About Managing’ and the subsequent response to the TV show she was on. Like many political songs it’s the words which are most important and Hardy doesn’t clutter the lyrics with anything other than the rhythm of her guitar.

Given Hardy’s past battles to be where she is now it would be easy to assume Chase the Devil Down had a cathartic strand. However, like most of her songs she has an incredible knack of keeping things light without diluting any of the message.

The emotion and feeling Hardy can muster is astonishing and the final track What It Is, showcases this skill perfectly. It’s almost the obverse of the opening track and, while just as enjoyable, it’s the other end of the spectrum with its slow and thoughtful cadence floating along like a marsh mist.

For a genre and a nation which produces some of the best female singers and musicians in the world, Hardy stands out. Her talent is obvious; her voice angelic; her song writing skills are among the best around and her ability to tell a story and create characters along with the world they inhabit is unrivalled.

     - Reviewer: Danny Farrangher, Folk All


Folking.com

Lyrically, musically and through the arrangements... it’s at the heart of the tradition... Deft, delicate, precise... If you fancy the idea, there are under three weeks to get a folk song to Number One for Christmas... It’s a fine album”

Ange Hardy’s new album Bring Back Home was released on November 28th. For the past few years, she has had nominations and awards a-plenty, both for her music and most recently her radio programme, Folk Findings.

If you’ve not come across Ange Hardy before (I was surprised recently to find an acoustic music promoter who hadn’t) Bring Back Home is her sixth album and her music is in the English folk tradition. Except, of course, she’s not predominantly a singer of traditional English folk songs. On this album only two of the fourteen songs (‘Claudy Banks’ and a lovely version of ‘Waters of Tyne’) are traditional. The remainder are written by Hardy. Lyrically, musically and through the arrangements, though, they are at the heart of the tradition.

Have a listen to ‘What It Is’ for Hardy’s recognition that in chasing awards, “I’d missed the point of music! Life is far, far too short to chase goals without enjoying the journey”. The track has a beautifully poised vocal on a song that, until I read the sleeve notes, I heard as a generic lyric about life rather than the specific meaning for a writer who has now come to understand that the clubs, singers and audiences, not the awards, are “the beating heart of folk”.

Hardy’s voice absorbs the listener. On ‘Sisters Three’ the different phrasings draw you in to a folk tale about the development of good and evil in the heart of mankind, whereas on ‘Chase The Devil Down’ the vocal dances with the guitar throughout the track. On ‘The Hunter, The Prey’ her voice breathlessly pulls us into the magical world of the song, but on ‘Once I Was A Rose’ it is more acapella and more delicate. I had the CD in the car last week and my passenger, a trained singer, described the voice as “fine”. Her meaning was not, as I would use the word to mean, ‘better than good’ (though it is); she meant it in the way a maker would use the word in describing fine needlework, fine silverwork et al – deft, delicate, precise (as well as rather good).

Ange Hardy arranged and produced the album and the arrangements bring in musicians (Peter Knight, Lukas Drinkwater, Evan Carson, Alex Cumming, Jon Dyer and Lee Cuff) who enrich the songs and centre them in folk music. Similarly, the lyrics generally deal with universal themes, set in the “fictional landscape that seems to permeate many of my songs. Willow trees and streams…dense woodlands….A sense of magic and mystery surrounding complex characters; each on their own journey” [sleeve notes]. This, too, is very much a traditional folk landscape.

I’m writing this in the first week of December. As a result, I’m particularly struck by ‘What May You Do For The JAM’. When the Prime Minister expressed her concern for those who were just managing, civil servants acronymed them into the JAM. The song knows people in this world and, as well as knowing the fear of failing, has detail, “The turkey alone would be more than our savings” humanity, “And so I play Mum…..I carry on making a home full of Christmassy cheer”, and positivity, “My point is the only rock left here to build on is that of a world which has hope”. It’s as far as you can get from an acronym. Watch the video below and you’ll hear that it’s a good song as well as one which makes a human and political point. It might be too late, but if you fancy the idea, there are under three weeks to get a folk song to Number One for Christmas.

In the next couple of months there are gigs and radio shows that will help take Bring Back Home to a wider audience. That’s good, it’s a fine album.

     - Reviewer: Mike Wistow, Folking.com


Stephen Leatherdale

"When you first hear this album, the songs don’t sound new. They are more like old favourites you somehow have forgotten... If you haven’t listened to this album yet, I am excited for you... for the musical treasure you are going to discover."

It begins with the full, warm-bath sumputous sound.

Typically Angesmooth, you enjoy an instant immersion into the music. The spiky fiddle of Peter Knight adds superb embellishment to several tracks; the sting inside the musical honey pot. Just like all Ange Hardy music, every facet of the musicianship is superb and polished. Yet the cleverest trick that Ange pulls off is to make you think this is an incredible jam. This album sounds as if, one midsummer evening, you have found a group of the most incredible and creative people playing perfectly next to a stream in a forest. You pull up a log to sit in the setting sunlight and listen to natural creativity take on a life of its own.

Occasionally, without knowing why, a burst of emotion shoots through you. The reason for this burst will become clear when you know the lyrics and are familiar with the tracks. But on the first listen, it is as if you are a puppet as benign sadness or a thrill of joy tugs your strings.

When you first hear this album, the songs don’t sound new. They are more like old favourites you somehow have forgotten. They are unmistakenly folk yet with enough innovation and pin-point arrangement to sound fresh; it is like discovering green shoots on a pollarded and ancient willow.

If you haven’t listened to this album yet, I am excited for you yet strangely jealous of the musical treasure you are going to discover.

     - Reviewer: Stephen Leatherdale

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