The Waters & The Wild: Released April 20, 2018
2017 BBC Radio 2 Horizon Award nominees head upstream
with sublime third album
‘Immaculate – like two halves of one voice’ – Mark Radcliffe, BBC Radio 2 & 6
“Hugely folk festival-friendly British trad full of glossy, close harmonies” – The Guardian
‘High production values, cinematic tracks and ingenuity in poetic adaptation – The Waters & The Wild is likely to be seen as something of a career milestone for Jon and Jay’ – fRoots
Last year Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere, aka Ninebarrow, were not surprisingly nominated for the coveted Horizon award (Best Emerging Act) at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
In a few short years, the Dorset duo had carved themselves a distinctive niche on the folk roots scene for their outstanding harmonies, delicate instrumentation and engaging songs and were on the brink of relinquishing their jobs as a teacher and GP in favour of a full-time music career – an act of faith that has clearly paid dividends.
Named after Nine Barrow Down in the Purbeck hills, their first release While the Blackthorn Burns was voted FATEA Magazine’s Best Debut Album of 2014 while their last album Releasing the Leaves (2016) saw a volley of media acclaim across national print and broadcast media and Best Duo nominations in the FATEA and Folking.com Awards.
With The Waters & The Wild, that immaculate close harmony sound is back in an 11-track album that exudes class and shows how their inspired songwriting is ever evolving. Produced at The Green Room, Devon by in-demand Mark Tucker, it again mixes original songs (sometimes tapping into the rich seam of history from their home county) with innovative arrangements of folk standards, dalliances with poetry and even continuing narratives whose opening chapters can be found on the previous release
There are dark songs, poignant songs, soothing songs, uplifting songs all wrapped in lush, sensitive arrangements and flawless musicianship. This is a bigger, full layered sound with Jon’s multi instrumental skills to the fore (piano, ukulele, tenor and octave mandola), Jon and Jay sharing duties on the distinctive reed organ and numerous guest musicians.
Says Jon: “We’ve had such a lot of fun recording this. I guess you could call this our first ‘studio album’ really. Our previous two have been self-produced and self-released. “We made the conscious decision quite early on with ‘The Waters and the Wild’ that we wanted people to be able to hear the progression from the previous two in terms of the production quality, but at the same time, we also wanted to retain the honesty and organic quality that the other records had as well. Having Mark Tucker on-board as producer was really key in helping us achieve that. Collaboration has always been a really important part of the recording process for us and in addition to Mark, we’ve also had the tremendous pleasure of being able to work with some of the most amazing session musicians. They’ve all added their particular brand of magic to the album.”
This time around the sound is nourished by Barney Morse-Brown’s stirring string arrangements, Lee Cuff returning with his fluid cello and Joe Limburn on double bass. Percussionist Evan Carson brings bodhran into the mix, Mark Tucker himself plays bass on some tracks and The Teacups provide backing vocals.
Ninebarrow are experts at aurally painting vivid canvases and conjuring up atmospheric dreamscapes and haunting melodies. To listen to a Ninebarrow CD is a little like walking through the famous C.S. Lewis wardrobe and entering a world by turns sylvan, seasonal, disquieting, nostalgic, but always fascinating.
The Hour of the Blackbird sets the scene with a simple charm before the mood and tempo changes to the sinister, powerful and percussive song of the Halsewell tragedy, Dorset’s worst shipping disaster.
* See Jon and Jay on search for the place where the East Indiaman went aground
The beautifully filmic Overthrown features image-rich lyrics and a gorgeous grand piano-led melody (recorded at Steinway Recording in Lincolnshire) and was inspired by the chalk downland of the South Dorset Ridgeway. Commissioned by Dorset Artsreach as part of their Land of Bone and Stone project it is one of the stand-out songs on the album looking at man’s impact on an historic landscape and imagining a future when humans are no longer masters of it.
Prickle Eye Bush is one of the songs which apparently got the duo into folk singing and here it is given an infectiously catchy treatment. Other traditional songs tackled are the acapella While Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping which showcases those expressive, interwoven vocals at their best.
They turn to the words of Dorset dialect poet William Barnes for the track Hwome, found in the collection Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect; a sparse, slow tempo gem about the heart-lifting feeling of coming home to one’s own ‘abode’- in their case the Dorset heartland of Hardy’s ‘Wessex’.
Rural Dorset life is the focus too in Gather It In – a happy, abundant traditional song of reaping the harvest, underpinned by the rich tones of the reed organ. A variation of All of a Row the duo have written their own tune and adapted the words.
Row On, a song of hope (“there’s dawn beyond the night”) also connects to Dorset. The words were found in an 1864 journal kept by a crew member on a whaling ship and put to a tune by Dorset-based folk singer Tim Laycock.
The chilling Thirteen Turns is a self-penned sequel to the Releasing the Leaves track Blood on the Hillside which told of a murder high on the Dorset hills believed to have been committed by witches. Sweeping strings are the backdrop to a song about a mistrusted village healer taken to Gallows Hill on account of being ‘different’ – a theme that prevails.
The sublime title song marries an enchanting, suspenseful soundscape to part of W.B. Yeats’ poem The Stolen Child, where fairies spirit children away so they can avoid the sadness of the human world.
Here, Jon and Jay have interspersed their own lyrics to the 19th century poem drawing parallels to modern day refugee children. Says Jay: “This song was written when the refugee crisis was at its peak and the dreadful photograph of the drowned Syrian three year-old Alan Kurdi was on our screens. Essentially, each verse is a contrast between Yeats’ fairy world and what is sometimes the depressing reality of our own.”
The album ends with an exquisite treatment of John Kirkpatrick’s emotive Sing a Full Song starting with a mournful cello – delicate vocals emphasising the heartbreak of parting.
Jon and Jay’s love of the outdoors and Dorset history and folklore flows through this spellbinding album. Ninebarrow have long had the ability to transport listeners to different vistas and different times with an understated yet totally captivating performance. The Waters & The Wild sees them step up their story weaving another fine tapestry of atmospheric songs, all performed with exquisite craft and finesse.
The Waters & The Wild is released on the Winding Track label on Friday, April 20 and distributed by Proper Music. As with their last release, it is accompanied by a beautifully presented songbook.
· A special album launch gig will be held at The Lighthouse, Poole, Dorset on Saturday, April 21, 8pm www.lighthousepoole.co.uk/whats-on/2018/ninebarrow/ with support from award-winning guitarist Will McNicol.
NINEBARROW TOUR DATES
01823 400416 | www.milvertonmusic.co.uk
01202 280000 | www.lighthousepoole.co.uk
01206 500900 |.www.colchesterartscentre.com
01285 720146 | email@example.com
01384-560462 | www.woodmanfolk.co.uk
01344 484123 | www.artree.org.uk
FRI 4 MAY |Ruskin Mill, STROUD
01453 837500 | www.rmt.org/
SAT 5 MAY | St Anne’s Folk Club, BLACKPOOL
01386 852352 | firstname.lastname@example.org
“Outstanding musicianship, gently crafted instrumentation, scintillating harmonies and wholly engrossing songs, The combination of Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere has proved beyond doubt that it now stands at the forefront of English folk.” – Folkwords
“A typically strong lyric and duo performance from Whitley and LaBouchardiere” – Songlines Magazine
‘Topical, traditional, excellent folk music- bound to garner them more awards and accolades’ – ★★★★ Maverick Magazine
“A carefully crafted beauty that should see them gather many more fans. Expect more plaudits to follow” – ★★★★Northern Sky Magazine
“An album rooted in the landscape of southwest England. But far from parochial the delightful title song links the folklore of vengeful fairies and the death of Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi. The song flames with a tight fury” – New Internationalist Magazine
“Expect The Waters & The Wild to appear in this year’s best folk album lists” – ★★★★ Get Ready To Rock
‘What an immaculate affair this is – beautifully performed’ – EFDSS English Dance & Song Magazine
As played on BBC Radio 2 Folk Show, BBC Radio 2 Folk Playlist, BBC Radios Ulster, Merseyside, Lincolnshire, Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Stoke, Hereford & Worcester, BBC Radio nan Gaidheal , Eden FM, Swindon 105.5, Dapper FM, Moorlands Radio, Brum Radio, Mystery Train Radio Show,
Kuar FM , Arkansas, 3MDR Melbourne, CKUT Montreal