• James Harvey

Album Review - Edgelarks - Edgelarks - 2017

Welcome to another album review; I am honoured to say that the content of the following album was written in my neck of the woods, Cumbria. Not Little Langdale, but just over the Old Man of Coniston in the tiny village, Ulpha.

Edgelarks is the new musical project of Philip Henry and Hannah Martin, previous winners of the Best Duo at the BBC Folk Award. The self-titled album is the fourth they have released but the first under the name Edgelarks.

A good strong twelve tracks in total, they kick things off with “Landlocked”, a slow paced, but beautiful song, retelling the struggles that Women had endure in order to explore the world in 'yesteryear'. From being considered unlucky on a ship to not being as strong as a man. All these added up to create a barrier making it far tougher for a Woman to explore the seas than a Man. Which is a little ironic, if you think about it.

Next, we have “No Victory” another moving tale, this time of the cost of war, even in victory, the loss and hurt that is left is insurmountable for many. “Signposts” picks the pace up a wee bit, a song, at least for me, that tells the tales of travelling, the things still left to discover. However, there is always that feeling that lingers in the back of your mind, the feelings for home and those you have left behind.

Slowing the flow back down a bit we have the beautiful tale, “Undelivered”. Stories from people that for some reason where never told to the ones intended, these reasons could be many, but it does make you wonder; how many things do you wish you had said to people but never got around to it or for whatever reason they never reached those they were meant for.

“Yarl’s Wood” is next. After doing a bit of digging it turns out this track, as I had suspected, is about the immigration detention centre in Bedfordshire and the rumours of mistreatment against the female detainees held within its walls. Now, I was, funnily enough, an Immigration Officer at the time this story broke (not one now, I hasten to add). I remember some of the rumours coming to the team I was in and the pressure some of us created to have this investigated, yet we were told to mind our own business or find another job.

Overcrowding and total loss of control by the private security firm hired to ensure the safety of the detainees, it was and still remains, a stain on this Country’s soul, no matter your view on immigrates. This song, reflects this, those coming to the UK for whatever reason, where subject to treatment and conditions that no human should be, in a Country that prides herself on her Human Rights.

“Caravans” continues the personal stories that Edgelark tell. This gives way to “Estren”, which I believe is Cornish for stranger. The tale itself is indeed, about a stranger visiting new lands. “Iceberg” is next up, a tale that, on the surface (pun intended!) seems to be about an Iceberg. However much like an Iceberg this is only a small part of the whole and in fact, beneath there is a great amount hidden from view. I reckon, but don’t quote me on this, it is a tale about folks. I mean, do we really know people 100%? For me, people years down the line can surprise me, with things they keep hidden below the surface. Maybe when writing this, they felt the same about folks they know or knew.

“Song of the Jay” a tale about loss, no matter who is lost, we all feel the same sorrow, be it family or a stranger. “Borders” focuses on the plight of child refugees, something, no matter your views on the subject, we see every day, from the images of a dead baby on the shores of Greece to the thousands currently making their way from war torn countries, alone. I for one, cannot imagine the fear they must have as they search for help.

“What’s the Life of a Man?”, this is an old folk song, one I’ve heard in many forms over my lifetime. Edgelarks, do the history of the song justice as well as putting their own spin on it.

The album ends with “The Good Earth” a tale of renewal, all living things no matter what they are, come to an end. Yet, this isn’t the end of all things, their experience of life is passed on to the next generation, and the circle of life continues anew.

I must say, this album is great in so many ways; looking at it as a piece of music, it is moving and inspiring. Looking at it as a folk album, it tells the stories of the artists. For me and many I know, folk music is, at its core, life experiences. You can learn more of a time period and its social history reading or listening to a folk song that has been passed down for hundreds of years, than you can via most modern history books.

This, as I said, is because the songs are about life, how the writer sees the world at that time. Even over the years, when sung by new people and tuned to reflect those new experiences, they are a slice of human history in its purest form. Just as Edgelarks’ final track, “The Good Earth” states, everything continues in one way or another, the circle of life doesn’t end with a single thing.

What Edgelarks have done, with much skill and care, is tackle hugely controversial subjects, such as the Yarl’s Wood incident and the refugee crisis with a non-biased view. By focusing on a personal experience, they simply tell a story and let you decide if you agree or not. Letting you form your own opinion, whether it matches theirs or not, this is a rare thing in today's, 'my opinion is right and you're all wrong if yours differs', world.

At no point does this album preach to you or say you are right or wrong for thinking in a certain why. Just as many great folk artists before them, they simply ask you to hear a personal story and think about that while you form your own views on the subject.

This is an album that in a hundred years’ time, someone can listen to and form a view of the events in the early 21st century, from the point of view of someone (or in this case, two people) who lived it, that really is meant as the highest prize I can give to any folk album.

For more information on Edgelarks and tour dates check their official website

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