Bella Hardy has been very productive lately with the recent young female folk fiddler supergroup excellent album Laylam out only a few weeks ago, a festive album of Christmas seasonal songs , and last years more sparse stripped down tribute to her beloved home of the Peak District ,The Dark Peak and the White. Her quality control remains exceptionally high, indeed I would venture the opinion that this is her best album to date, showing steady progression with great maturity for one who is still in her 20's. A new departure for this album is the formation a more permament supporting band over a whole album, The Midnight Watch, consisting of 4 fine Scottish folk musicians sympathetically and classily supporting Bella, featuring Anna Massie on Guitar and Banjo; Angus Lyon on keyboards;James Lindsay on Double Bass , and Mattie Foulds on Percussion and "Sneaky" Piano, who also does an excellent job as producer of this album, with a clear, pure, uncluttered straightforward sound. Bella has written 5 new original songs, and has adapted another half dozen traditional songs, sometimes adding a female perspective or some new verses. Her own compositions stand up remarkably well , she is one of the finest of the recent young batch of emerging folk musicians, and her singing voice here is strong, mesmerising and beautiful. A remarkably mature and assured album likely to feature in many end of year lists as one of the best folk albums of 2013,just like a classic maturing wine, she just gets better and better through time. A personal favourite track for me is Maybe You Might, featuring 3 minutes of just Bella singing and playing "Clonky" Piano, a great singer songwriter non folk performance which has a pureness and light touch that commands special respect, and is a magic moment on this fine album.
This is beautiful passionate music. If you have listened to any of Bella's previous albums you will have an idea of what to expect but this is a further evolution in terms of overall ambition. The traditional songs and self penned material blend seamlessly and the arrangements constantly delight. The band is perfect for the songs with lots of variation in style and instrumentation. And then there is Bella's voice which is absolutely gripping. I listened to the album once and then was compelled to put it on repeat. Getting to know the intricacies of the album (of which there are many) is going to be a very rewarding experience.
I like all of Bella Hardys albums, and this one no less. I think it's interesting the way she weaves the 'tradition' and traditional themes and music into her own point of view and personal concerns. A few of the songs are a little on the 'folk pop' side of things for me, if not bad either, so I rate it a just a little bit below her last fantastic one, 'Dark Peak and the White,' and 'Night Visiting' and 'Songs Lost and Stolen.' That said though, a terrific modern British folk album and she's one my very favorite younger artists.
This is an exceptional album by an exceptional folk artist. Bella's soaring voice and confident playing, arranging, writing; her loyalty to the traditional language, ideas and form of folk music; her true touch of emotion and storytelling in her original songs come together in an album which is astonishing in its range. She moves from shanty to music-hall, ballad to personal, traditional to original, and never loses sight of the essence of the folk song. I love every song, so it's really hard to pick out any for the sake of this review (it was the same with Songs Lost and Stolen!) but among her original songs I'll choose the very affecting `Three Pieces of my Heart' - I defy anyone to listen without joining in; and for the sheer vocal excellence, `Sleeping Beauty'. The most chilling and unforgettable song on the album is The Seventh Girl', based on `Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight'. I have an outstanding favourite, however, which is a haunting arrangement of one of my favourite folk-songs, `When I was on Horseback' and retitled here `True Hearted Girl', telling in Bella's chosen version the story of the ravages of love in wartime from a woman's perspective. And this is the essence and binding theme of the album - a woman's take on war, love and loss; very personal, and all the more universally appealing for that.
A range of folk and folk-derived pieces, varied in style, that range from the merely very good to the hauntingly beautiful. My absolute favourite tracks are Good Man's Wife and Three Pieces of my Heart. And then there's The Seventh Girl, with its bright and breezy tune and rather gruesome lyrics.
This is one of my favourite albums, I love Bella's voice, and the songs offer something for every mood. I love Whisky You're the Devil, it's so catchy, and Three Pieces of My Heart is beautiful, but I love every track on this cd. I saw her in concert last year and it was a cracking night.