From Here: English Folk Field Recordings Volume 2 review – unvarnished voices fire the form

Various artists
(From Here Records)
From June Tabor to Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne, Richard Dawson to Grace Petrie, artists known and new interpret ‘from here’

It’s not a coincidence that Stick in the Wheel decided to release their exploratory new anthology this month. This is a second volume of bare, field recordings made around Britain – Ian Carter and Nicola Kearey hulking basic equipment around the country, setting up in kitchens and front rooms – featuring artists all being asked to sing a song inspired by the words “from here”. All participants have connections to traditional music or folk, but they’re a fittingly varied bunch. Traditional stalwarts such as June Tabor and Kathryn Tickell (herself with a new album out) stand next to 21st-century groundbreakers like Richard Dawson and Grace Petrie. “Everyone is equal and valid,” say the liner notes. Individual voices indeed come through in this mix, in all their disparate accents and approaches.

Stick In The Wheel presents From Here: English Folk Field Recordings, Volume 2 album artwork.
Stick In The Wheel presents From Here: English Folk Field Recordings, Volume 2 album artwork. Photograph: From Here Records

The best tracks here are arresting, intimate performances. The Sandgate Dandling Song becomes simultaneously lustful and ominous in the mouth of a re-energised Rachel Unthank. A song she sang in her youth, her character’s love of her baby’s father gains an odder dimension against a subtle background of violence. Richard Dawson’s The Almsgiver is the album’s crown jewel. The emotion in Dawson’s voice becomes even more affecting when he delicately reins it in, as his character mourns a lost child through the death of another.

The songs with more obvious messages don’t always settle in as well. June Tabor revisits her The King of Rome, about a man who keeps pigeons but wants to fly himself, while Chris Wood’s So Much to Defend, with its vignettes about modern people, feels well worn. Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne’s (above) surprising take on an old music-hall song, Two Lovely Black Eyes, impacts more. About Tories and Liberals, it shows us, in a refreshing way, how little time changes and how important it is that Britain remembers what went before.

Also out this month

Marry Waterson and Emily Barker’s A Window to Other Ways strays from folk into soulful alt-rock, an obvious kinship between the women flaming in the songs and arrangements. The Breath’s Only Stories is a rare beast: an acoustic album largely of old songs that still feels truly essential, the new title track showing off the duo’s growing MOR-meets-Mazzy Star charms. David Ian Roberts’ Travelling Bright greets spring perfectly as he sings of “lulling in” green men, kings of sunsets and ancient hollow ways.


Jude Rogers

The GuardianTramp

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