Edgelarks (Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin) found themselves halfway through their spring tour when COVID-19 shutdown the world. They hurried home to Devon, feeling despondent, and unsure how they would make ends meet while unable to gig. However, as the days passed they began to realise that they were in the privileged position of having been given the gift of time. Ironically, a life spent on the road playing music leaves little time for practising, writing, or recording anything new. So they sat down and began to play.
But what to play? On the bookshelf sat stacks of old music, songs earmarked here and there during previous research bouts. Hannah and Phil realised they had never released a record of entirely traditional music before, and now, feeling their musical identity shaken by the turmoil, seemed like a perfect time to connect to these roots.
The starting point was clear. Hannah had been aware of the song Henry Martin for several years, and as a song collected locally on Dartmoor by Baring Gould, connecting the duo’s names, it had to be explored. A rip roaring tale of adventure on the high seas is given a driving edge by Henry’s sensational lap steel playing, while Martin’s vocal glides through the complexities of the tune.
A prominent source for these songs was Peter Kennedy’s classic Folksongs of the British Isles. Album opener Greenwood Laddie sprang from there, but given the Edgelarks treatment it morphs from a silken folk tune into a harmonica driven ear worm that would get the sleepiest listener dancing.
Locks and Bolts is another tale of forbidden love. Using innovative sampling techniques, the very sounds of locks being turned and bolts being driven home becomes the percussion that underpins this upbeat, euphoric feeling track. Could there be psychological significance in singing songs about imprisonment during lockdown?
The Mountain Stream features Henry’s soulful vocal and stellar Dobro work, conjuring wild landscapes and, for once, a happy ending!
Queen Amongst The Heather begins with a trad feel, but the addition of Henry’s signature beatbox harmonica takes it somewhere completely new.
The subtle influence of electronica is also apparent in their rendering of Come Write Me Down. Double violins soar and mix with harmonica, echoing ideas of looping, acoustically producing a programmed effect.
The Deluded Lover is another classic from Peter Kennedy’s seminal volume, paying tribute to the likes of The Bothy Band, as well as the vibe of the folk rockers of the 1970s, with electric guitar leading the way.
Bird in a Cage was a surprise find. Taking inspiration from a trance-y fiddle riff, Henry and Martin explore their winning combination of gutsy upbeat duo improvising as if with one mind.
In The Seeds of Love, Henry and Martin go to the seminal English folk song itself. The song that Cecil Sharp overheard a gardener singing, the catalyst for the first folk revival. Yet this version combines traditional homage (no strumming guitars, a focus on the vocal, exposed and tender) with a more modern sensibility, using innovative vocal layers to create a humming, glitching, bug-and-bird song effect.
Henry Martin becomes Edgelarks’ sixth studio album, their first of entirely traditional material. It celebrates that mighty survivor, the tradition itself. The world might feel like it is ending; but you need a song to sing for every occasion, and there the tradition can help you. They navigate this difficult time for musicians by reaffirming their identity, and pushing new musical boundaries. With no access to professional studios, Henry engineered, edited, and mixed the entire record. They deliberately kept to the more uplifting end of the folk song canon, because this is an album about overcoming difficulties. An album about not giving up; not stopping playing, even in the face of disaster. This is an album that looks back, to hundreds of years of music making in these islands – but that also looks forward, to a time when we can overcome the distance that separates us, and raise our voices together once more in song.
“Extraordinary” BBC 6 Music
Live Tour dates start after an online tour launch concert on the 8th.
Autumn Tour Dates
08/10 Online Tour Launch Concert https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/firebrand-music/t-qddmev
14/10 The Greystones, Sheffield https://www.wegottickets.com/event/515375
15/10 Hop Barn, Southwell https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/edgelarks-tickets-136106031805
27/10 Plough Arts Centre, Torrington https://www.theploughartscentre.org.uk/whats-on/live
28/10 The Old Library, Bodmin https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/intobodmin/edgelarks/e-brrxdo
29/10 Town Hall Bishops Castle https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/bcth/edgelarks-concert/2020-10-07/19:30/t-ryxmmx
30/10 Alstonefield Village Hall, Ashbourne https://www.wegottickets.com/event/482379
02/11 Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury https://www.rosestheatre.org/events/entry/edgelarks#.YVM8sLhKhPY
05/11 Canopy Theatre, Beccles https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/martello-promotions/edgelarks/e-gvmmol
06/11 Swanton Novers VH , Norfolk For tickets and information, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
07/11 The Froize, Suffolk https://froize.co.uk/folk-at-the-froize/
11/11 Trades Club, Hebden Bridge https://thetradesclub.com/events/edgelarks
12/11 Arts Centre West Kirby https://westkirbyartscentre.org.uk/events/edge-larks-2020
For more information visit https://edgelarks.co.uk/
To purchase Henry Martin visit: https://philliphenryhannahmartin.bandcamp.com/album/henry-martin