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BELLA HARDY - The Dark Peak And The White

BELLA HARDY - The Dark Peak And The White
Private Label NOE04

Subtitled “Stories from the Peak District”, and supported by The National Park Authority, Bella Hardy’s fourth album uses ballad and song to explore and animate the folklore and cultural history of her beloved native part of Derbyshire. Her newly composed and period adapted lyrics, with added tune accompaniments, draw significantly from a songbook published in 1867.

The result has significant cultural and educational value. Facets of forest law and feudalism underscore some songs and there are carefully studied pieces on folkloric legend, superstition and the supernatural. Redolent with the poetry of place, the songs are rich in topographic references and there’s a dedicated website with lyrics (original and new), background information and supporting images (more of which should have come with the CD incidentally).

The stories are always centre stage, sung barely and sparely in the main by Bella’s pure, intimate and intense, idiomatically accented voice, with discrete musical backing for additional atmosphere and texture. Kris Drever produced the album and his accompaniment on guitar and other stringed instruments is distinctively telling in its skill and judgement in rhythmic and melodic detail. Bella adds a little fiddle, piano and harmonium too, equally effectively.

Her lyrics are vivid in their period feel, character and empathy, in the writing and delivery, and convey a rhapsodic passion for the genius loci. Take, for example, the darkly moving accounts of 17th century plague loss at Eyam and the 19th century Winnats Pass murders (‘two tragic lovers sleep in gritstone, blood and lime’), and her beautifully plaintive image-laden lament for the sacrifice of Derwent village for the sake of Ladybower Reservoir in the 1940s.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 93 of The Living Tradition magazine.