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ANGE HARDY - The Lament Of The Black Sheep

ANGE HARDY - The Lament Of The Black Sheep
Story Records STREC1653

The third studio album from deservedly award-winning West Somerset-based singer and songwriter Ange forms a logical continuance of, and provides a conscious sense of artistic development from, its predecessors. Before placing this disc in the player, I rated album number two, Bare Foot Folk, very highly, but even that ranking has been blown away at once with the fresh, airy breeze on which The Lament Of The Black Sheep coasts in. The album is a well-considered sequence of songs that forms an exploration of the very soil that surrounds the roots which Ange so tellingly exposed on Bare Foot Folk. These roots grow deep in folk tradition, whether in song or story (or both), as manifested in the heritage, occupations, trades and industries which sprung out of it or in family concerns and experiences arising out of living with or amidst the traditions of rural life; some, inevitably, have more than a ring of autobiographical truth too, but never in the sense of navel-gazing or potentially embarrassing revelation that forms such a trap for the unwary or misguided songwriter.

Ange’s writing displays an enviable sensitivity in tandem with a simple poetry in its delicacy of imagery, as its impressive diversity of expression and subject-matter transports us from the storm-tossed opener The Bow To The Sailor through to the aching wistful beauty of The Sailor’s Farewell via the contrasted bleak simplicity of the retold nursery-rhyme of the CD’s title song; from the thoughtful, conscientious consideration of The Gambler’s Lot to the cheeky a cappella of The Wanting Wife and the seductive lure of The Foolish Heir; from the genial lilt of the ploughing rhythm in The Tilling Bird to the unusually animated, yet quite enchanting, modern example of The Lullaby that soothingly and fittingly closes the disc.

Ange writes so very authentically in the spirit and letter of folk tradition that in many cases you’d be hard pressed to distinguish her creations from the ‘genuine article’ – not that it necessarily matters, of course, in the scheme of things. Ange’s own wonderful, characterful singing provides both the lead vocal lines and the supporting layers of imaginative and well-judged self-harmonisation, while she’s given a further boost when joined in duet mode by the complementary voice of James Findlay, as on The Wanting Wife and The Daring Lassie.

The modest instrumental backdrops bring on board sparing yet uncannily effective contributions from the above-credited James Findlay (fiddle), along with Lukas Drinkwater (double bass), Alex Cumming (accordion), Jon Dyer (flute, whistle) and Jo May (percussion, spoons). The Lament Of The Black Sheep is a most charming release, extremely well sung and extremely attractively presented (nay, a work of art): it’s a really special record which should bring Ange’s profile to the forefront and win her many more admirers.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 103 of The Living Tradition magazine.