Kirsty Hannah - On the Humber Banks

2023 studio album

On the Humber Banks - Kirsty Hannah

the bright young folk review

On the Humber Banks is the captivating debut EP from Kirsty Hannah, who invites the listener to walk with her through a snippet of Lincolnshire’s musical history. The EP comprises four Lincolnshire folk songs originally collected by Percy Grainger in the early 1900s.

Hannah is a highly skilled unaccompanied singer, and she treats us to this for two of the four songs on the EP. Unless, of course, you count the duo with a local blackbird (in Sprig of Thyme) or the waves of the Humber itself in Betsy Walton.

Half a sweet love song, half a lament, Sprig of Thyme is a folk song with a long history and many wonderful retellings, considering it’s an elaborately disguised pun. Hannah’s version, beautifully performed, crisp and pure, is a strong start to the EP.

Betsy Walton, known sometimes as On The Humber Banks (the song that is, not Betsy herself) is a chilling yet familiar story in the world of traditional folk. It is sung here with dark atmospheric gravity as Hannah’s plaintive vocals are accompanied by the powerful combination of the harmonium and the hurdy-gurdy.

An instrumental version is also included in the album, and, strange to say, it is surprisingly easy to lose yourself when listening to nearly four minutes of deep and moody harmonium and hurdy-gurdy.

Early One Spring is a spin on the classic folk scenario of the anxious wife left waiting for her sailor to return. The song follows the seafarer while he sails the seas and misses his lady love, only to find when he returns that she’s remarried. Surprisingly for a song of this type, no one dies at the end. It’s once again sung expertly by Hannah, this time with guitar accompaniment.

Lastly, Reilly is another haunting solo lament, about a young girl and her poor sailor love, which ends in tragedy. Hannah’s passion for the music and the story is evident in every note.

On the Humber Banks is a heartfelt tribute to the songs and voices that still resonate through time.

Alex Turner

Released November 20, 2022 on CD and digitally. Produced by Bob Cuthbertson.

1. Sprig of Thyme
2. Betsy Walton
3. Early One Spring
4. Reilly
5. Betsy Walton (Instrumental)

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Kirsty Hannah