One of the most exciting things about the folk scene is the idea of community that permeates at every level, from its central role in the life cycle of folksongs to the manner and context in which they are performed. As such, it is always exciting when a new ensemble comes along, with every musician providing their own unique sound and style.
So when Eliza Carthy, Bella Hardy, Lucy Farrell and Kate Young, four of the finest female folk fiddlers in the country (try saying that with your mouth full), announced that they were joining forces in a new collective, it was only ever going to be something special. The idea for the group came about quite organically, as Lucy Farrell explains: “Our friend Kathryn Tickell had an idea for a gig, and got us together to do a one-off at The Sage, Gateshead, which turned into a couple of gigs, which turned into an album.” The thing that most notably ties these musicians together is their chosen instrument: the fiddle.
“It is so close to the voice physically and sonically,” Lucy explains, “It is such a versatile instrument, plus it’s easy and light to carry around!”
The fiddle tends to be one of the most common instruments in folk music, yet arguably one of the best at exhibiting a firmly individual style. As such, the homogeneous instrumentation provides no barrier to the band creating rich, engaging arrangements of the songs and tunes in their repertoire. Lucy explains how they approach the creative process:
“Someone brings a song they like and we try stuff out on it. We have fiddles, voices and ideas to play around with. I enjoy having both the limitation and the endless possibilities of having four violins to create music with. It’s a lot about harmony and rhythm as with anything else. We are not trying to do the guitar’s bit or anything. Occasionally we think we need more bass or something and we get the 'whale' (cello!) involved.”
The group’s debut album, Laylam, exhibits an eclectic mix of material, ranging from the traditional Little Birds, collected by Cecil Sharp on one of his collecting trips to the Appalachians, to Buddy Miller’s Wide River, with plenty in between.
“...the sheer enjoyment that was felt during the making of [the album] shines through and makes it a total delight.”
Folk Radio UK
“The four of us have quite different tastes and styles,” Lucy says on the subject of choosing material, “I guess the mix is what works!”
For anyone who has sat through a live show from the group, it is clear they are having as much fun as the audience.
“Everything seems quite easy with this band,” says Lucy, “It’s a great group to play in. We all get on well, it’s fun both on stage and in the van.”
Plans for the future seem quite open at the moment, Lucy responding with a simple “Who knows?!” when asked. So we’ll have to wait and see what is to come from this exciting collective, but for now, we have the show at Cecil Sharp House to look forward to on Saturday 27 September.
The show is a special double bill, beginning with a set from Rachel Newton to launch her fantastic new album Changeling. Best known for her work with The Shee, The Emily Portman Trio, The Furrow Collective and more recently The Elizabethan Session, Changeling is Rachel’s second solo release, following her critically acclaimed debut The Shadow Side. This new album already looks to be a worthy successor, with glowing reviews from Bright Young Folk, Folk Radio UK and The Guardian.
“…the calming influence of Rachel is ten times better than any breathing exercises or yoga classes you can take. The combination of her voice with the harp makes for an idyllic experience.”
Bright Young Folk
Rachel Newton and Carthy, Hardy, Farrell and Young play Cecil Sharp House on Saturday 27 September.