Some musical genres manage to pull off Christmas far better than others. Folk followers are blessed in this respect. And this time each year they can expect to hear a slew of traditionally-flavoured carols, wassails and other winter-inspired folk-song. This beautiful little EP from the fast-rising star of contemporary folk, Ange Hardy, is certainly one worth taking note of.
The title track is not a little-known traditional carol, but rather a song written by Hardy relatively recently when she saw a lone holly tree in the tiny village of Chumleigh in Somerset. The view before her inspired her to write a song imagining the plight of a lost robin seeking shelter from the harsh winter weather on Christmas Eve. The Little Holly Tree with “the greenest of leaves and the reddest of berries” is the result.
It’s a simple song, beautifully sung, and performed unaccompanied. The atmospheric production shows off both her crisp, clear voice and the gentle, evocative lyrics perfectly. Even if it’s not snowing outside as this is playing, one can’t help but imagine it is.
Joining her on the second track, which is taken from her highly acclaimed 2014 album The Lament of The Black Sheep, is the distinctive voice of fellow Somerset singer, James Findlay.
The Wanting Wife sounds like it should have been collected from one of the villages of that county by Cecil Sharp over a hundred years ago but it has actually been written by Hardy in traditional style. Their shared vocals complement one another admirably. For those who have not experienced this track before it’s probably going to make them want to purchase the album. The final track is a short excerpt from The Wexford Carol and, like the others, is sung unaccompanied.
2014 has been quite a year for Ange Hardy with her reputation as both a songwriter and singer growing and growing. This EP seems an appropriate way to end such a year and emerges with impeccable timing as the ideal Christmas gift from Hardy to her growing band of followers.Darren Johnson
Released on Story Records Limited December 2014
1. The Little Holly Tree
2. The Wanting wife
3. The Wexford Carol