Posted by Mike Ainscoe 29 September 2014
Lament Of The Black Sheep, the new album by Somerset folk singer Ange Hardy has been causing quite a stir in folk circles. Receiving universally positive reviews it’s a piece of work which shows a remarkable talent in portraying her world in song. We managed to catch the FATEA Female Vocalist of the Year straight off the back of the album launch gig and took the opportunity to probe a little deeper into her thinking about the record.
When Bare Foot Folk started getting picked up by reviewers and folk radio stations I began to immerse myself in the folk world. I discovered a huge array of artists I’d never heard of. I’ll be honest, when I recorded Bare Foot Folk I think the only folk music I’d ever heard were Kate Rusby & Kathryn Roberts, and a few traditional folk songs at open mic nights. Kate Rusby was the only artist I’d ever seen perform live outside an open mic setting.
By the time I decided to write The Lament of The Black Sheep I’d been to dozens of concerts, spent a small fortune on albums, and listened to more folk radio shows that I would ever have believed existed. In one sense, that’s what I meant by “exploring the surrounding soil”. I immersed myself in folk culture, and I think the album reflects that. I also didn’t feel like it had to be as stripped back as Bare Foot Folk, so I had the opportunity to explore some more diverse musical arrangements.
Also, in a more literal sense, the songs on the album all carry a common theme of local farming heritage and of working the land. They are all songs that explore the stories found in the soil of West Somerset.
I think people hear what they want to hear or need to hear in songs. Everything is always heard through the ears of your own experience. That’s something that makes music really special.
On the new album I think it’s “The Raising and The Letting Go” that has had the most diverse reaction, some (including me) hear it as a song about a mother raising her children well... some hear it in completely the opposite light.
The other one that really stands out was “Waste Wanting” from Bare Foot Folk. It’s a very literal autobiographical story about my childhood but I heard a request for it on The Mike Harding Folk Show last year where the person asking for the song had related it to a long distance love affair they were in!
However, in all those songs there’s a layer of complexity. Mabel suffered tragic loss in ’The Sailor’s Farewell’ but in my telling of the story it’s actually her children that feel as though they have to pick up the pieces, in ’The Wanting Wife’ the wife has desperately wanted more and begins the tale by undervaluing the one thing she already has... in ’The Gambler’s Lot’ I think the wife’s complaint is not so much for her own comfort but for the legacy they’re trying to leave for their children.
For me songs are just stories with a good melody line. The only one I struggled with was “The Tilling Bird.” It used to be called “Marsh Daisy” but “The Marsh Daisy” didn’t fit with the double meaning that runs through the whole song. I still quite often still call it “Marsh Daisy” by mistake.
I was hugely, hugely proud of my first album (Windmills & Wishes) but I struggled to get gigs. I got very few reviews, and those few I got were very average. I struggled to sell the album or to find ways of promoting it. I entered a few competitions and, although I made several finals, I never won any of them.
So I pretty much drew a line under the whole music thing. But I was never really happy. I kept trying to pour myself into other ventures... but I was constantly frustrated, and - behind closed doors - falling deeper into depression.
Eventually, two years later, Rob said: “I’ve just realised that I married a musician. You will always be a musician. There’s no point trying to ignore it, or to pretend we can draw a line under it. You need to record another album, and we need to do another village hall tour”. So we did Bare Foot Folk.
The point is, I really don’t think I chose to be a musician. I was born as one. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to do it in public, and I’ve chosen to share it. But I write because I’ve found out I need to write in order to be me, is that really a choice?
Luke Jackson had really hurt his foot playing football on concrete earlier in the week, so I let him keep his shoes on for the cameras! It turns out, slightly unsurprisingly, that the theatre stage and green room were possibly a bit grubby underfoot!
6 October 2014 - London - The Green Note ’Folk On Monday’
11 October 2014 - Littlehampton, Launchpad Fundraiser Charity event
’Just Passing Through’ an acoustic tour of village halls with Steve Pledger
15 October 2014 - Chedzoy - Village Hall
20 October 2014 - Donyatt - Village Hall
22 October 2014 - Chumleigh - Village Hall
27 October 2014 - Awilscomb - Village Hall
29 October 2014 - Curry Rivel - Village Hall
10 November 2014 - Clayhidon - Village Hall
12 November 2014 - Broomfield - Village Hall
17 November 2014 - Nynehead - Village Hall
19 November 2014 - Upton - Village Hall
24 November 2014 - Blake Hall South Petherton