NOTick Hart is an austere and unpretentious traditional singer, but far from boring; humanity and sly humor crackle warmly through his work. It was there in the bouquet of supermarket roses he clutched on the cover of his 2017 debut (Nick Hart Sings Eight English Folk Songs) and the eggs he cradled on his follow-up (Nick Hart Sings Nine English Folk Songs). Both albums bristled with intense, stripped-down folk songs, Hart’s daily East Anglian delivery giving them an added dimension of feeling.
Album three was recorded with a similar simplicity – mostly in his back bedroom during closings – but this time he writes more unusual instruments: bones, spoons, a viola da gamba, even a lyre he made from an old banjo and some table legs, played in a technique similar to that of the krar in Ethiopia and Eritrea, where the strings are not cut to release the sound.
Many songs here reveal his sparse film style. It’s easy to imagine landscapes springing from the plucked guitar figures of May Song, a Cambridgeshire song where a man turns ‘again’ to the Lord, a sense of need underscored by a male choir joining him. Jack Hall is a compelling gallows confessional, while Hart’s version of the love song Lemany carries the sweetness, as well as the mystery of the protagonist’s past.
Hart’s austere musicality is also strongly affecting. The clarinet he plays at the start of Lucy Wan adds a lamenting thrill to the killer ballad, while the guitar-driven Under the Leaves of Life tells the story of going to town and finding “sweet Jesus. -Christ / with his body nailed to a tree”. ”, feels straight-up devastating. Hart empties and strips these songs, amplifying the strangeness in their banality.
Also released this month
Lamkin: versions and variants in the northern hemisphere (Death Is Not the End) is a compelling tape and Bandcamp-exclusive release, unearthing never-before-seen field recordings of the bloody killer ballad from archives across the US, Ireland and the UK. Many different, raw and rousing versions rock the bones, from singers aged 29 to 93. A cloudy dawnis also fantastic.
Canadian Folk Music Award Winner Abigail LapellStolen’s gorgeous fourth album Time (Outlaw Music) is a moving collection of songs inspired by nature, the seasons, and his family’s experience as refugees fleeing Eastern Europe during the Holocaust.