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EDGELARKS - Henry Martin 

EDGELARKS - Henry Martin 
Dragonfly Roots DRCD008 

Edgelarks (Devon-based duo Hannah Martin and Phillip Henry) have garnered a very firm following over the past decade, their career having taken them through BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winner status in 2014 to membership of Peter Knight’s Gigspanner Big Band, and they’ve released six CDs, the fifth of which found them adopting Edgelarks as “band name”. Their distinctive musical signature is built around their complementary talents – Hannah’s clear, poised singing and stylish fiddle and banjo and Phillip’s inventive, beautifully flowing and equally poised playing (a plethora of stringed instruments, but notably dobro, lap steel and chaturangui) and supportive singing.

Although the current pandemic abruptly curtailed the duo’s touring activities, they then managed to channel energies into recording at home. They decided to reconnect to their traditional roots, hence this new album, cunningly titled in a marriage of their surnames with a noted Child ballad, is their first to concentrate exclusively on traditional material encompassing the theme of overcoming difficulties.

Phillip’s precise yet relaxed playing and gentle virtuosity give something of a Transatlantic Session feel to the duo’s imaginative and sensitively layered arrangements, which also incorporate a refreshingly eclectic array of influences stemming in no small part from the intriguing instrumentation. Greenwood Laddie exudes a seriously soulful, bluesy vibe through Phillip’s harmonica work, while Come Write Me Down melds multiple violin lines to give an almost trance-like feel, and The Deluded Lover brings electric guitar into the mix. Hannah’s versatile singing proves the icing on the cake, while on The Mountain Stream Phillip takes the lead vocal role.

The duo’s trademark blend of creativity and musicianship here serves traditional song just as well as it does their original compositions, and the whole album represents an impressive technical and artistic achievement.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 137 of The Living Tradition magazine