As they celebrate their first decade and prepare to release their fifth studio album it is clear that the name of Ninebarrow (Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere) has become synonymous with one word – quality.
The Dorset duo are about to unveil their first release in two-and-a-half years – the atmosphere-charged The Colour of Night – an album that takes their remarkable success story to yet another level.
Accompanied once again by a beautifully presented songbook it will be released on September 1 and follows the emphatically acclaimed A Pocket Full of Acorns (2021) which brought them Folk Album of the Year awards and media accolades across the board, not least on BBC Radio 2, 3, 4 and 6 and BBC-tv’s Countryfile with The Observer’s Neil Spencer saying: “The pair sing as one voice, in super-tight harmony” in his 4* review.
It’s those stunning harmonies that marked them out from the start – they were to prove the foundation of a class act.
After forming Ninebarrow in 2012 Jon and Jay relinquished their respective full-time jobs as a teacher and GP in 2016 and took a leap of faith into the music business – a gamble that clearly paid off.
Nominated for the coveted Horizon award (Best Emerging Act) at the 2017 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards the duo have carved themselves a distinctive niche on the folk roots scene not just for those outstanding harmonies but their high production values, engaging original songs, poetic lyricism and inventive instrumentation ranging from the delicate to the lustrous.
Named after Nine Barrow Down in the Purbeck hills, their first release While the Blackthorn Burns was voted FATEA Magazine’s Best Debut Album of 2014 and was followed by Releasing the Leaves (2016) which prompted a string of ‘Best Duo’ nominations. By the time of their third release The Waters & The Wild Jon and Jay had firmly developed a signature sound – widespread critical acclaim came thick and fast with The Guardian selecting it as one of their albums of the month.
The March 2021 release of A Pocket Full of Acorns brought with it a very special initiative which saw the pair planting 1,000 native English trees (half of them oaks) and 200 shrubs to form The Ninebarrow Woodland on three acres of land near Gillingham in north Dorset – today the young woodland is burgeoning, alive with myriad bird visitors and a flower glade.
Never short of ideas, the duo embraced the COVID lockdown period with a run of technically astute streamed gigs in indoor and outdoor settings (they continue today) which, at their peak, saw more than 2,000 people tuning in as well as masterminding a special collaboration with two choirs (Hart Voices and Chantry Singers) to produce the charity single The Hour of the Blackbird which raised funds for mental health charity MIND. Keen walkers (and Lake District Wainwright baggers!) they have also penned two books of Dorset walks (with a third on the way) and for the past few years have run popular ‘musical walking holidays’ in their home county.
Now their enviable attention to detail returns in The Colour of Night with its perfectly balanced light and shade. Produced by in-demand Mark Tucker (who also lends a hand with percussion) at The Green Room, Devon, the elegant, painstakingly-crafted 11-track album comprises five original songs and one original tune, their take on a classic traditional number, an adaptation and arrangement of a poem by Victorian Dorset dialect poet William Barnes and three carefully chosen covers of songs by Patrick Wolf, Jimmy MacCarthy and Nick Drake.
Jon and Jay are joined once again by the Ninebarrow band members – cellist and long-term collaborator, Lee Mackenzie, brilliant double bassist John Parker and omnipresent Evan Carson on percussion enabling lush, layered, cinematic arrangements on some numbers and spare, soulful, fragile settings on others.
At the core of the sound are Jon’s multi-instrumental skills (piano, ukulele, tenor and octave mandola) with Jon and Jay sharing duties on the distinctive reed organ and vocals.
Says Jon: “This collection is released in the tenth year since we picked up a ukulele and decided to have a go at singing some songs together. We feel like we’ve come a long way since then – we’re packing a few more instruments in the car for a start! The world has certainly felt a bit topsy-turvy since our last album but we are lucky to have received wonderful support that kept our spirits high – some of the songs here reflect that sentiment.”
NINEBARROW TOUR DATES
Jun 29 – St Paul’s Church, Nottingham
Jun 30 – St Laurence’s Church, Weymouth
Jul 1 – Ashcroft Arts, Fareham
Jul 12 – Frome Festival @ St Leonard’s Church, Frome
August 27 – Ninebarrow & Friends – Lyme Folk Weekend
Sep 7 – St Peter’s Church, Dunchurch, Rugby
Sep 8 – Sawley Village Hall, Ripon
Sep 9 – St Alkmund’s Church, Whitchurch, Shropshire
Sep 10 – St Mary’s Church, Wantage, Oxford
Sep 15 – St Michael’s Church, Brent Knoll, Somerset
Sep 16 – Milford on Sea Community Centre, Lymington
Sep 17 – Riverhouse Barn Arts Centre, Walton on Thames
Sep 21 – St Peter’s Church, Henfield, West Sussex
Sep 22 – Brewhouse Arts Centre, Burton upon Trent
Sep 23 – Arnside WI & Village Hall, Cumbria
Nov 25 – The Exchange, Sturminster Newton
The Colour of Night is released on the Winding Track label on Friday, Sept 1st.
Pre-order link here: ninebarrow.shop/product-page/the-colour-of-night-album-cd-2023
For further details please visit: www.ninebarrow.co.uk