The most beautiful thing about ‘Before the Sun’, the debut album from Hannah Sanders and Ben Savage, is that is seems so simple. Much of this effortless brilliance, of course, will be testament to the skills of award-winning Canadian producer David Travers-Smith, who has done an incredible job. But, as someone who has seen this duo perform live a few times, I have seen first-hand the magic that has been distilled so potently in this album.
Much of ‘Before the Sun’ is traditional. Sanders and Savage have boldly included some very well-trodden songs – ‘Come All Ye Fair and Tender Maids’, ‘Lady Margaret’ and ‘Unquiet Grave’ have all been done before, many times and very well. But this is exactly what I mean about this duo – they manage to simply and effortlessly deal with traditional material in a completely new and effortless way.
Bill Miller’s song ‘The Sun is Gonna Rise’ is a personal highlight, as is ‘Ribbons and Bows’ by Richie Stearns. Sanders and Savage’s two self-penned offerings – ‘The Fall’ and ‘What’s it Tonight My Love?’ are songs about nature and love, spellbinding and beautiful.
Hannah Sanders’ voice, clear and timeless, evokes echoes of Joni Mitchell or Judy Collins. By contrast, Ben Savage’s vocals have a rough, bluesy edge. These voices shouldn’t work together, but they really do. This is folk music for everyone – a masterclass in proficiency, an exercise in individuality and a declaration of love of the folk tradition from both sides of the Atlantic. An exemplary, unique album. Do it again, guys, and soon!