on 6 July 2012
I have seen Fay Hield a couple of times over the last two years, from the initimacy of a small pub concert at the Old Ship Inn, Lowdham supported by just Sam Sweeney to the more recent Big Session Festival with her full new band the Hurricance Party. Her debut album was no slouch, but her second album seems to have come on leaps and bounds in a short space of time. Her voice seems much stronger, more to the front, with traces of June Tabor or Norma Waterson. She has breathed a freshness and vitality into 11 traditional songs, the title track Sir Orfeo is a great epic ballad that is spine tingling to hear live, one of many highlights. The band contains the cream of young folk musicians, including the dependable Sam Sweeney mainly on fiddle , plus many more exotic stringed instruments , Andy Cutting on accordion , her partner Jon Boden who leads Bellowhead on guitar and fiddle, and Rob Harbron on concertina. Top notch contemporary folkies, and there are also a couple of guest slots for the esteemed Martin Simpson on banjo and guitar. There is not a weak track on the album, her voice is in fine form, clear, strong, emotional but controlled, and the band are fantastic. This will surely feature in the shortlist for fok album of the year as a deservedly strong contender, a fine enjoyable high quality album, and if you get a chance to see her live grab it, as live performance with an explanation of the context for these songs adds another dimension.
The first album from Fay Hield, "Looking Glass" was a simply wonderful piece of work - check out my review for full details - so, whilst I've been genuinely looking forward to her new album, I've also been concerned. Just how was she going to top her debut? Would she even try?
It's a common belief that sequels are never as good as the debuts, and one of the oft-quoted exceptions is "Godfather 2", where the sequel is held to be as good as, and possibly better, than the original. This album, then, is the folk equivalent of "Godfather 2".
Fay has not strayed too far from her template - articulate, literate songs in a traditional vein performed with gusto and/or delicacy. The difference here is the Hurricane Party. They have brought an added depth and a warmer, rounded sound - the perfect partner for Fay's beautiful voice: I've seen Fay live a few times, and the musicians have always been an integral part of the live experience - that they're fully acknowledged here is well-deserved.
Simply put, this is an exceptionally good album and one that you'll get a lot of joy from owning. Buy it. You need it.
on 15 April 2013
Fay Hield embodies a lot of what I got into folk music for: a powerful, simple sound that conveys the earthy and the ancient, with passion and humour, a truly timeless style. This album only once strays into that unpleasant territory know as (say it with a shudder) "music hall" but otherwise it's a damn fine album. I love it.
on 7 June 2012
The nice thing about the opening track "The Lover's Ghost" is that it leaves you in no doubt that Fay Hield and the Hurricane Party are here to kick up a storm and not meekly come in like the wind that shakes the barley. With lyrics that are perhaps more suitable to accompany "Wake Wood" (one of the latest Hammer Horror movies) this homage to the Gothic strain of English `folk' songs really propels the growing disquiet of the piece at a cracking pace. The menacing interplay between Andy Cutting and Rob Harbron's squeezeboxes and Sam Sweeny and Jon Boden's strings with guest Martin Simpson's banjo tastefully added low in the mix (and no, I don't mean that to sound derisory) topped by Hield's thrusting vocals are reminiscent of Maddy Pryor at her towering best. In a thoroughly theatrical work-out that places the interpretation of the song leagues above any other version I've encountered recently it would be just reward for purchasing a copy of the album on the strength of this one track alone. But of course in the hands of this talented ensemble I'm pleased to report that of each of the eleven numbers featured here there isn't a duff one amongst them. Talking of Ms Pryor, I'm sure that Fay's singing style has been greatly influenced by Steeleye's first lady particularly on "Tarry Trousers" where the phrasing and diction clear delivery could have been taken straight from the vaults of Summer Solstice or Please To See The King. This by the way is a compliment of the highest order and one that would surely win gold if it were pitched into a vocal version of the 2012 Olympics. One final comparison (and I know how odious these can be) is the title track "Sir Orfeo" which sounds as if it could have been lifted from Mr Fox or Pyewackett's debut album and if you have a copy of `that' album the quality speaks for itself. Fay's accompanying sleeve-notes provide enough information to make Malcolm Taylor at the EFDSS a happy man and is an expressive and insightful pointer of a lady who proudly wears her folk heritage as a badge of honour. Back-slapping all round methinks!
on 30 May 2012
This album is excellent. Her Looking Glass CD from a couple of years ago was pretty good, but Orfeo cranks it up at least a couple of notches. This is the real thing. Backed superbly by some of the best musicians around (in particular the brilliant fiddle of Sam Sweeney), Fay has improved her delivery and her singing is top notch.
She saves the best track until last. Naughty Baby, to the tune of Deutchland, Deutchland Uber Alles is wonderful. But there are plenty more classics on this disc which range from powerful ballads, uptempo jaunts to music hall style offerings.
The Fay Hield Trio are a treat and, as the expanded, 'big band' Hurricane Party are touring the festivals this summer, if you get the chance catch them live, I urge you to do so.