Ben Walker & Kirsty Merryn explore traditional songs about humanity’s connection to the earth through Life and the Land. Unperturbed by endless pandemic-related challenges, the EP came out on 3rd September 2021, exactly a year after originally scheduled.
Merryn’s voice beautifully soars above the instrumentation to celebrate the harvest time and the cycles of nature.
The first song, John Barleycorn, is an energetic murder ballad about death and rebirth. It is short and sweet, and the enticing banjo playing gives it a thrilling yet dark drive.
Piano and slide guitar give Jolly Ploughboy a more bluesy colour, a carefully chosen fit with the theme of the song: the common nature of agricultural work.
New Mown Hay is an ode to the folk revival, praising the sweetness of outdoor work. Its gentle melody is complemented by the occasional change of time signature.
Taking inspiration from a Robert Burns poem, Westlin’ Winds was the first track produced. It expresses the pure sadness of nature being destroyed by the attempt to harness it in a consumerist society, and particularly huntsmen shooting down birds in Scotland.
Walker and Merryn leave the listener with a song by Lal and Mike Waterson, The Scarecrow. It is an eerily catchy version that will stick in the mind like a scarecrow to a pole.
Life and the Land is an enticing exploration of life and death, dexterously depicting all the emotions its themes include. Walker and Merryn’s skill is clear, yet it sounds like it comes with ease - an excellent example of what happens when two musicians collaborate on something they are passionate about.Elye Cuthbertson
Released on CD and digitally on Folkroom Records December 3rd 2021.
1. John Barleycorn
2. Jolly Ploughboy
3. New Mown Hay
4. Westlin’ Winds