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Wednesday 22 May 2024

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Hlywing – Ruth Angell.

Feb 27, 2023

Just occasionally it does everyone good to look at things from a different angle. To me it seems that’s exactly what Ruth Angell – yes, you may well know her from work with others, not least Ashley Hutchings, Jim Moray, Rufus Wainwright, Mabon as well as fellow graduates of the Birmingham Conservatoire under the guidance of Joe Broughton –  has done. She’s looked long and hard at what’s around her, what moves her and come up with something that is quite splendid. This isn’t the kind of album you’d expect… well what would you expect? You can nod approvingly about her CV and achievements to this point but none of it prepares you for ‘Hlywing.’ I mean the title’s a tongue twister and attempting to encapsulate the diversity of the album leads to descriptive short comings which can only do her a dis-service as there is so much here to admire.

Throughout there’s a feeling of Englishness in the same way that say, the Beatles ‘Blackbird’ or ‘She’s Leaving Home’ have. Her compositions are bucolic with hints of rurality that anchor a sense of place and contentment across the album. The surroundings seep into the music quite naturally nothing here sounds forced or jars, the tracks flow with an easy grace and her vocals suit the atmosphere of each piece. ‘In The Vale Of Contemplation,’ is a beautiful encapsulation of twilight and fond absence centred round an aching violin and gentle piano, ‘Three Stags’ by contrast is spiked guitars and driving rhythms almost gothic in its lyrical picture of archaic rites which may or may not still be going on in the inn of the title. ‘The Boathouse’ is a reverie buoyed on fragile strings and surrounding keyboards, the melody falls and rises as the drums beat steadily, ‘No Roses’ has a fireside feel as well as an almost perfect dance between guitar and piano with a billowing sweep of orchestral arrangement.

This is music to escape with, the perfect excuse put on headphones and lose yourself, leave everything and join Miss Angell in her thoughtful craft and deeper wells of melodic creativity. The product of a tight team of prime movers and enablers, take a bow producer Sid Peacock and engineer Greg Chandler, between them they’ve crafted and coaxed a sensitive, meaningful recording stacked with emotions and nuance beyond anything obvious.  I’ll go as far as to say, if a thousand people listen to ‘Hlywing’ it’ll mean something different to each of them. There is no part of the album that hems you in, it allows your mind to wander wherever, free or set down in the familiar. Thus your imagination is an equal partner with your ears in experiencing the music.

The title is an ancient word which basically means shelter or safety and that’s at the core of the music and intention of its creator…. an assurance, conviction and reliability.  ‘Hlywing’ deserves to make an impact, it is a remarkable debut and evidence of ambitions beyond simple genres which makes it rather special.

Simon Jones.


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