This album is in many ways a return and revisiting of songs that first engaged me. I have always found the tradition of English lyrical and pastoral ballads an area of sweet melancholy most moving, and although I have known most of these songs over many years, have never recorded, or even sung them before. They are familiar to me from folksong-club floor-singers, residents and from fellow travelling performers. Also, I took myself off to Cecil Sharp House (the home of the English Folk Song and Dance Society) where the Vaughn-Williams Memorial Library is based, and the helpful librarians led me to much source material. I found there, among its massive archive, Chappell’s ‘Popular Music of the Olden Time’ which revealed to me the source of some songs that were current in my childhood. These are written songs of the 17th century that were in the National Song Book, and the like, intended for schools, to be accompanied by piano. Benji, Giles and I then spent time finding suitable settings for the songs, which all came together speedily and naturally. This working on songs is always a good time for me. How songs reveal themselves to different musicians is surprising and delightful. We have tried here to present these jewels in the simplest, acoustic formats, leaving the songs to reveal their power quietly.
ASHLEY HUTCHINGS AND KEN NICOL'S - COPPER, RUSSET AND GOLD
Ashley Hutchings and Ken Nicol’s first time collaboration. Copper, Russet and Gold. Comprised of all original compositions that delve into the pairings’ rich musical history. The expected folk feel is certainly there, but also mixed with splashes of jazz, blues and rock. Lyrically too the record is a varied experience with tales of Old England, the misery of supporting a doomed football team, Sir Francis Drake, GIs in World War II Britain and the beauty of Paris. Nicol and Hutchings have made a record that glows with warmth, genuine character and charm.
TIM HART & FRIENDS - MY VERY FAVOURITE NURSEY RHYME REC.
'Many years ago, after a hard day in the pram, there was nothing I liked better than to relax and listen to a good record; but so often I found there was nothing that I really liked.
So a few friends and I decided that one day, when we were a little older, we would get together and make a record that we could all enjoy.
Well, I'm a bit older now with children of my own and they think this record's great... but then I am their dad!
My friends and I had a lot of fun making this record and I hope that you will have as much fun listening to it. It's a record for the young with the not so young in mind. So from one ex-child to another, believe me this is the Best Nursery Rhyme Record ever.
MADDY PRIOR & THE CARNIVAL BAND - RINGING THE CHANGES
If life is determined by a series of happy accidents, then somebody upstairs was beaming long and hard the day the Carnival Band happened across Maddy Prior. Beginning as a one-off experiment for a Radio 2 Christmas Special, their collaboration has become a long term concern lasting over twenty years and counting. Despite forays into other musical styles and influences, it has been their unique approach to Christmas music that has proved the enduring theme of their work together. Their semi-regular Yuletide live show has become the highlight of many a seasonal period, featuring festive favourites played on medieval and modern instruments. 2007 however will see the pairing embark in a new direction. Ringing The Changes is an apt title for an album that sees them eschew their usual approach of adapting music from earlier centuries in favour of all self penned material. Though still a Christmas record in the tradition of Carols And Capers and A Tapestry Of Carols, this is an album that takes a look at all aspects of what the season means today. Thus there is the Jamaican gospel of 'Wake Up!' and the beautiful introspection of 'Bright Evening Star', both dealing with the traditional story of the virgin birth. 'Stuff!' (featuring a guest turn from Monty Python's Terry Jones) looks at the thoroughly modern custom of retail frenzy and panic buying. Elsewhere there is more rumination on the nature of the season and a rich musical landscape that includes medieval and folk music, as well as a Latin text set to a Cuban rhythm. The result is a collection of contemporary reflections on the festive season with fresh musical ideas to match. Christmas is always changing - you could argue whether for better or for worse - but these songs show that amid the frantic materialism, the fragility of family life and the questioning of beliefs there is still room for quiet contemplation, generosity, awe and wonder, a pint and a carol or two.
KATHRYN TICKELL - THE BEST OF
This seems a particularly fitting release since the globally acclaimed Northumbrian musician was awarded the prestigious Queen’s Medal for Music in 2009. Following on from this award, Kathryn had a very special celebration at the Sage Gateshead in December with special guest Sting amongst others.
Kathryn Tickell is a composer, performer and successful recording artist whose work is deeply rooted to the landscape and people of Northumbria. She also works collaboratively across many genres, making her work contemporary and exciting, and putting her firmly at the forefront of the current folk music revival.
In 2008, Kathryn became the first folk musician in history to be commissioned to write a piece for the BBC Proms. It was written for Folkestra, Muzsikás, London Sinfonietta and London Young Musicians. One of the foremost composers of our time and Master of the Queen’s Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, composed a piece especially for Kathryn, commissioned by The Sage Gateshead and premiered with musicians from Northern Sinfonia in October 2006 and aired on BBC Radio 3. Winner of BBC Radio 2 Folk Award’s Musician of the Year in 2005, Kathryn was the subject of a Channel 5 television documentary ‘Kathryn Tickell’s Northumbria’ and has made numerous TV and radio appearances.
In July 2007, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by University of Northumbria for her outstanding and inspirational achievements.
MADDY PRIOR - THE QUEST
From the very moment that Steeleye Span first married electric instruments and traditional music, Maddy Prior has always been an innovator. Throughout her career, both with the band and in her solo career. 2006, however, saw her undertake he most challenging project yet – The Quest. Inspired by the legend of the Holy Grail, it was to be a tour of the UK that visited some of the most historic and dramatic location in the country, many of which were tied into the myths that surround the holy vessel. Maddy Prior has always been fascinated by the stories and legends of these isles and has written or adapted most (if not all) of the great folk tales over the years. Of late, however, she has begun to explore perhaps the most enduring myth of all – that of King Arthur and the Holy Grail. The question whether the Grail made a journey through Britain, whether Joseph of Arimathea did visit here as a trader, even if he brought a young Jesus with him, has enthralled both artists and historians down the ages. The Quest is another in a long line of creative endeavours designed to engage with the story. Accompanied by her long-term musical colleagues Nick Holland and Troy Donnockley, the tour saw Maddy revisit her solo catalogue for the first time in some years. The Quest CD/DVD includes material from ‘Flesh & Blood’, ‘Year’ and ‘Ravenchild’ releases, the trio of albums that she released to critical acclaim during the nineties. However the centrepiece of the live set comes in the form of the song cycle from ‘Arthur The King’, which deals with one of the key figures at the centre of the myth of the Grail. Yet there was more to The Quest than just the music. This was to be the first interactive music tour, whereby internet watchers the world over would be able to follow the progress of Maddy, musicians and crew online as they were followed every step of the way by a film crew. Each day new footage, both on and off stage, was posted on the Quest website to provide a unique insight into the touring process. The best of these is available with a special bonus DVD that accompanies the album, featuring many of the most memorable performances from the tour alongside some fascinating and often hilarious behind the scenes footage. The Quest may have come to its conclusion, but this is a document that will ensure that the special atmosphere that created will never be forgotten.