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Henry Martin – Edgelarks.

Oct 21, 2020


It appears that hanging out with Peter Knight as part of The Gigspanner Big Band has done wonders for Hannah Martin and Philip Henry. Though this set has its genesis in lock down when many musicians sat on the sofa, stared around the lounge and wondered what they do, the roots of the album – to me at least  – come from an experience of expanding boundaries and experimentation to a level they didn’t get just by playing folk clubs! Yes, Martin and Henry were used to lacing trad and contemporary creations with slide guitar, Indian touches and assorted styling, they were already highly, creative musicians but here matters go much deeper.

Turning inward whilst looking outward, the duo focused on the tradition, deciding to give folk song a new set of clothes, not slavishly trotting out rehashes but purposefully pointing them in a different direction. Opener ‘Greenwood Laddie,’ sets the agenda perfectly. I don’t know if they’ve ever heard Jumpleads’ rogue version but this matches it. What’s basically a love song retains the melody whilst the guitar line gurgles, trills and quietly screeches, a monstrous mouth harp howls, the pace and volume ups yet the vocals retain a bucolic clarity. Quite, quite stunning! That’s only the first track…but the recording just keeps on giving. The ensuing ‘Locks & Bolts,’ mixes mountain banjo, sustain guitar lines, clarion fiddles and a take on the familiar ‘Henry Martin,’ goes all spooked and atmospheric, leaving bags of space in the arrangement, lending it a creepy, dark under layer. So it goes, all the way to the closing ‘ The Seeds Of Love,’ buoyed on quiet electronics and sampled harmonies, again the trad tune is preserved in the vocal line whilst swirls, washes and strums gently balance to the final echoing. Full marks then to Mat Tucker and Matt Taylor who mastered it and Sam Cooke who’s come up with decent artwork with which to adorn ‘Henry Martin.’ By now the wise among you must have spotted the link with their surnames.

Whispers insist this is going to be released as a boutique item that you can either have as a CD or download, limited numbers ahead. That’s a real pity since I rate this as their finest work yet and it should be widely available for those in and beyond the roots genre to hear. Fingers crossed they’ll rethink that detail and continue pressing. ‘ Henry Martin,’ is innovative, impelling  and impressive. Essential listening.

Simon Jones.

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