|Bella Hardy ¤¤ Battleplan (2013)|
Bella Hardy ¤¤ Battleplan
Birthname: Arwen Arabella Hardy
Location: Edale in the Peak District, Derbyshire ~ Durham, UK
Album release: April 22, 2013
Record Label: Noe Records
01. Good Man's Wife (4:32)
02. Whisky You're The Devil (2:58)
03. True Hearted Girl (3:25)
04. Yellow Handkerchief (3:24)
05. Three Pieces Of My Heart (3:46)
06. Sleeping Beauty (4:00)
07. Through Lonesome Woods (2:02)
08. The Seventh Girl (3:41)
09. Maybe You Might (3:17)
10. Drifting Away (3:21)
11. One More Day (2:48)
¤¤ Hardy earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from York St John University in 2005 and a Master of Music degree from the University of Newcastle in 2007. She was named the inaugural "Alum of the Year" by York St John University in 2009.
¤¤ Bella Hardy's brooding follow-up to the award winning 'Songs Lost & Stolen'
¤¤ Featuring Bella Hardy & The Midnight Watch
¤¤ Bella Hardy: Singing, Fiddle, Clonky Piano
¤¤ Anna Massie: Guitar, Banjo, Vocals
¤¤ Angus Lyon: Piano, Rhodes, Accordion, Vocals
¤¤ James Lindsay: Double Bass, Vocals
¤¤ Mattie Foulds: Percussion, Sneaky Piano
¤¤ Produced by Mattie Foulds
¤¤ All songs published by Domino Publishing Co. Ltd. (PRS)
¤¤ Recorded and mixed by Mattie Foulds at Mobile With A Home Studios, Heriot Toun
¤¤ Mastered by Stuart Hamilton, Castlesound Studios, Pencaitland Photographs by Louis DeCarlo
¤¤ Design by Emma Hardy at Noe Design
¤¤ Noe Records NOE06
¤¤ "Like her contemporaries Laura Marling and Rachel Sermanni, Bella Hardy fuses contemporary acoustic songwriting with the pervasive feel and style of traditional U.K. folk. But where others use the classics as a foundation to fashion their own dramatic storytelling and melody-making songs, Hardy’s style — even on her own fine compositions — is more tied, albeit loosely at times, to tradition.
¤¤ Which isn’t to say that her new album Battleplan, doesn’t have its own adventurous streak.
¤¤ The thriving success of Marling and modern pub/folk bands like Mumford and Sons has proven that British roots music can be as inventive and captivating as the most worshipped indie darlings and Hardy, despite her lack of hipster cred, has crafted an album that is both beautiful and artful.
¤¤ Because of Hardy’s firm control of her own vision, the traditional songs are able to be reshaped in the style of her own works — and, compellingly, vice versa."
¤¤ Pour amateur de folk anglais traditionnel et de qualité.
by Simon Holland on 13 April, 2013; (Album of the Month)
¤¤ Another of Folk Radio UK’s favourites, Bella Hardy, has her new album battleplan released on 22nd April. Bella seems to have been in creative overdrive since Songs Lost & Stolen, so this comes fairly hot on the heels of last year’s geographic homecoming, The Dark Peak And The White, and this year’s sidestep into Carthy, Hardy, Farrell & Young.
¤¤ The really good news is that it sounds fabulous. It’s by far and away Bella’s most consistent record to date and after the stripped back affair of Dark Peak reunites her with producer Mattie Foulds. While the most obvious effect of this is a bigger fuller sound, albeit from just over a minute into the disc, there are other subtle differences at work. The inside of the digi-pack gatefold bills this CD as “Featuring Bella Hardy & The Midnight Watch.” Beneath this just five names and a variety of instruments are listed. So is this a deliberate move to put a band together?
¤¤ Bella’s response is revealing, “I think that given time, bands form quite naturally. One group of people have slowly become my first choice, my dream team; they all appeared on different tracks of Songs Lost & Stolen, and when I started gigging that album I realised how well they worked together.” She continues, “When I began rounding up the songs for battleplan, I quite quickly realised that I wanted it to be recorded all with this one set of musicians, as a band, so I gave them a name to seal it and they’re now The Midnight Watch.”
¤¤ It sounds a small detail, but has a significant and positive effect on battleplan and Bella explains the difference in approach. “I’ve previously had different friends on different tracks on a record, and I wanted to work towards something a bit more cohesive. The best thing about having a band is knowing you’ve got a team of people who’ve got your back, onstage and off. It makes a big difference.”
¤¤ Naturally, not all the tracks sound the same, as the arrangements are quite distinct, song by song and Bella reveals that not everything has changed, “The approach to arranging material is much the same; I work on a song at home, write it or edit it from tradition, often write a simple accompaniment on fiddle or piano, and then on this occasion I met up with the band for two afternoons before we got into the studio and we built the tracks up from there.”
¤¤ Perhaps it’s the courage given by the exceptional band at her back that has permeated battleplan. Whatever it is, I’d argue that Bella has never sounded in better voice. The contrast between the end of Whisky You’re The Devil and True Hearted Girl is a case in point for me. There are places where her voice is layered and four of the Midnight watch are credited with vocals, creating some lovely harmonies and fills, but Through Lonesome Woods is especially striking and very different. The latter was the first song she learnt to fiddle-sing and Bella played it all the way back in 2004 as a finalist of the BBC Young Folk Award.
¤¤ When I suggest that her singing is especially good on this record, Bella reveals, “I think any voice goes through good and not so good stages, depending on how much singing you’re doing, how tired you are, how well you’re looking after yourself. When we recorded battleplan last November, I’d not had any vocal set backs for a while, I’d done an awful lot of recording and performing, and my voice was just warmed up and well worked in. To have captured that stage on an album is very satisfying as sod’s law is usually getting ill just before recording! I generally try to look after my voice in simple ways, but I also try not to think or worry about it too much, it’d drive me mad. To be honest, I don’t like to analyse the phrasing and delivery too much either, I just like to sing as it comes to me.”
¤¤ In contrast to Songs Lost & Stolen, her previous album with Mattie, battleplan delves into the folk tradition, although Bella shapes the songs to her own design. She explains, “This album was very much the culmination of what’s been in my head for a few years, without implementing any rules on myself of format, style or content. With Songs Lost & Stolen I had an aim to write all of the songs myself, it was kind of a self set challenge, but that’s the only time I’ve ever set out to do that. I usually quite naturally mix traditional and modern material, I don’t see them as different things.”
¤¤ I press Bella as to whether the songs were picked to tell a story or suit a wider purpose, but the truth is far simpler, “The traditional songs on here are some of my favourites and have been for a long time. I just thought “You know what, I’m just going to do that because I love it”, and I didn’t worry about who’d done it before or making the songs fit together, I just hoped that using the same band throughout would do that. It wasn’t until after the album was made that people started pointing out some fairly major thematic threads which run through the collection.”
¤¤ The cover is another dramatic and striking image, but this time it’s stormy rather than the sun kissed image of Songs Lost & Stolen. Realising that I’m also probably making things fit after the event, I still have to enquire if this is significant too. Perhaps cautious of the limits put upon a record by trying to define it Bella qualifies her response and says, “Yes, I suppose so. The title battleplan comes from the song Sleeping Beauty “Wars they are lost before they’re begun, for battles they never go to plan”. I sometimes feel like it’s a collection of songs about things not going the way you thought they would. I’m a fastidious list maker, but I never seem to be able to stick to the list or the plan. Life doesn’t let you. So yes, I suppose stormy sums it up! I also chose that image for the cover because it made me think of The Seventh Girl, having just let the outlandish knight drown in the sea, and also the lyric from Whisky You’re The Devil, “The sea’s too full of witchcraft, you’ll sooner sink than swim.”
¤¤ However you choose to interpret this and whatever you read into battleplan, it’s a wonderful record. It may be amongst the best sounding CDs you’ll hear this year too, with all elements coming together supremely well. It packs a lot into just under 40 minutes, so gets the nod for just about perfect length too. Could it be any better? Well it could be on big, black, shiny, 180gm vinyl. But other than that? No!
Biography by Colin Irwin
¤¤ One of a new breed of young fiddler/singers who emerged in Britain in the 2000s, Bella Hardy has an intense, heartfelt approach to singing that has drawn comparisons to June Tabor. In contrast to the fey-voiced singers who have become popular in recent years, her deeply emotional delivery of traditional ballads in particular sets her apart from most of her generation, getting to the heart of the song, while also revealing her as a talented writer of songs in a traditional style. From Edale, Derbyshire, one of England's most idyllic spots in the beautiful Peak District at the start of the Pennine Way, Bella Hardy was brought up in a small, relatively remote close-knit community that mirrored some of the rural folk environments where traditional song flourished in the old days.
¤¤ As a child she roamed the valley singing the folk songs she'd heard from her father and she was largely unaffected by the consumer world of rock and pop, as there were few CDs in the house. She had violin lessons as a child and also attributes her headmaster, Peter Irwin, with instilling her with a love of performing music. She was 13 when, fueled by visits to nearby Stainsby Folk Festival where she was inspired by a little-known club singer called Theresa Tooley, she attended a Folkworks summer school in Durham. She had fiddle lessons from Peter Cooper and ended up singing and playing fiddle with the teenage band the Brat Pack, which emerged from the summer school and went on to play festival gigs as a 12-piece, abbreviating their name to the Pack.
¤¤ Subsequent visits to the Folkworks summer school saw her fiddle playing developing further under the tutelage of Aidan O'Rourke (of LAU). She says the first song she ever wrote, "Three Black Feathers" (included on her debut solo album, Night Visiting), was originally conceived when her mind wandered during a GCSE math exam. She left Derbyshire to study English at university in York and joined the folk trio Ola (with Michael Jary and Helen Bell), who went on to record an album entitled The Animals Are in the West. She was in the last year of her English degree in 2004 when she reached the final of the BBC Young Folk Awards (losing out narrowly to her friend, Scottish fiddle player Lauren MacColl). After leaving the university she moved to London and took a job as an event organizer at the Savoy Hotel, but the lure of music proved impossible to resist -- so in 2006 she decided to embark on a career in music and, giving herself two years to make it work, went to Newcastle to get her master's degree in music.
¤¤ It was there that she was hired as a singing tutor and began to get gigs as a solo fiddler/singer, impressing listeners with her maturity and conviction. In April, 2007 -- at age 23 -- she received funding from the Prince's Trust to make an album, and enlisted talented friends like Corrina Hewatt, Emily & Hazel Askew, Chris Sherburn, Joe Oliver, and Hannah James to help. Partly inspired by Charlotte Greig's Night Visiting Songs, Night Visiting featured "Three Black Feathers" and another Hardy original, "Alone, Jane?" (based on the Jane Eyre story), plus a song by Kristina Olsen from San Francisco. Otherwise mainly traditional, it received ecstatic reviews and marked Bella Hardy as one of the most talented artists of the new generation.
¤¤ Night Visiting (Noe Records, 2007)
¤¤ In The Shadow of Mountains (Noe Records, 2009)
¤¤ Songs Lost & Stolen (Navigator Records, 2011)
¤¤ The Dark Peak and The White (Noe Records, 2012)
¤¤ Twelve Little Devils The Pack (Selwyn Music, 2002)
¤¤ Be Prepared for Weather Ola (Ola Music, 2003)
¤¤ Best Original Song BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (2012) - 'The Herring Girl'
¤¤ Horizon Award BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (2009)
¤¤ Horizon Award BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (2008)
¤¤ Best Original Song BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (2008)
¤¤ Best Album (In The Shadow of Mountains) Spiral Awards (2010)
|Bella Hardy ¤¤ Battleplan (2013)|